Lepidoptera Collection

The Lepidoptera-collection of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna represents one of the largest collections of butterflies and moths of the world. About 3.5 million mounted specimens and some hundred thousand papered samples are housed in nearly 11.000 drawers. The collection includes an estimated 40.000 type specimens which in fact are the most valuable representatives of species diversity.

Particularly well established is the Middle-European and Mediterranean fauna, the fauna of the Canary Islands and the Near and Middle East. Major part of the rich collection of tropical Lepidoptera is coming from the Neotropical and Oriental Region.


Historical Background

Lepidopterology in Austria dates back to the second half of the 18th century. The oldest butterflies and moths collection we evidently know is the collection of Michael Denis and Ignaz Schiffermüller, both teachers at the famous Theresianum college in Vienna. The collection was presented to the old United Royal and Imperial Natural History Collections (Vereinigtes k.k. Naturalien-Cabinet) at the Hofburg where it burnt during the revolution in 1848. Denis & Schiffermüller published the first index of the Lepidoptera of the Viennese region.

Exocelina anggiensis Shaverdo et al., 2012
: Josef Mann
Exocelina anggiensis Shaverdo et al., 2012
Alois Rogenhofer (1831-1897) was the first keeper of the Lepidoptera-collection at the Museum of Natural History. Beside him Josef Mann (1804-1889) worked as a keen technician and collector for the benefits of the museum. He described many species of Lepidoptera new to science focussing on Microlepidoptera.

The successor of Rogenhofer was Hans Rebel (1861-1940) who gave a stamp on the Lepidoptera-collection of Vienna for decades. He was responsible for rich acquisitions and enlarged the collections until the end of his period in 1932. Since 1925 he was also director general of the museum and published more than 300 papers on lepidopterology. Very important is the "Staudinger-Rebel-catalogue" of Palaearctic Lepidoptera. The valuable first edition of this work with numerous handwritten notes of Rebel is part of our collection.

Hans Zerny (1887-1945) was a collaborator of Rebel and followed him as the keeper of the collection after Rebel's retirement. His expeditions to South America and Tanzania were fruitful for the museum and have been the base of numerous descriptions of new species until today. Additionally he worked on South East Asian noctuids and on Neotropical Syntomidae.

Since 1960 Friedrich Kasy (1921 - 1990) became keeper of the collection. He was specialized in Microlepidoptera and later focussed on faunistic work of the Eastern border of Austria. He published 110 scientific papers.

Richard Imb (1932 - 1990) was technician at the Lepidoptera-collection for many years until his sudden death in 1990. He was well known for his graphical talent and his accurate preparation work. Due to his extensive knowledge of the inner structure of the collection knowing every single mounted specimen personally he often was called the „soul of the collection“.

In 1986 Martin Lödl followed as a curator for Lepidoptera and is in this position since then. This period is characterized by a significant enlargement of the collections (from about 6000 to more than 10.000 drawers). A special focus is the collection of tropical noctuids (Owl moths). Many important collections could be acquired for the museum, e.g. the König-collection of South American butterflies, the Vartian collection of Lepidoptera of the Near and Middle East, the Burgermeister collection of alpine Lepidoptera as well as numerous smaller private collections. The Pinker collection of Lepidoptera of the Canary Islands and Turkey was bought during the incision of the former and the recent curatorship. In winter 1995/1996 M. Lödl was responsible for the transfer of the Lepidoptera-collection from the second floor of the building to the new halls on the top floor.

Since 1995 Sabine Gaal-Haszler is regular scientific employee of the Lepidoptera-collection. Her main interest are the quadrifine noctuids too.


The size of the collection

The section now includes 4 collection halls, namely a compactor with the main-collection of butterflies, tiger-moths and loopers, a hall for the Palaearctic owl-moths, a hall for the remaining moths and microlepidoptera and an additional hall for the Vartian- and Pinker-collection. Moreover there are three administrative rooms and a laboratory with a collection of microscopic slides (about 20.000 pieces).
In addition the records contain archive material of many entomologists. The latter are the data base of parts of the collections holding valuable information about the collecting sites of many specimens of the collection.
The Lepidoptera-collection meanwhile holds the biggest photographic archive on noctuids: 20.000 photographs with type material from different museums and photographs of genitalic structures as well as a dia slide collection of 2000 life-shots of tropical moths. This is one of the most extensive documentations of ethological facts of nocturnal Lepidoptera.
Under special curatorial treatment are the noctuid collection, particularly the collection of quadrifine owl-moths (M. Lödl, S. Gaal-Haszler) and the Pterophoridae (E. Arenberger).
Significant accessions and a lot of private collections of faunistic value are housed in the Upper Dome Hall and the second basement of our museum.


  • Mag. Dr. Martin Lödl - Keeper
  • Mag. Dr. Sabine Gaal-Haszler - Scientific employee


Quadrifina - Bulletin of Research on the Lepidoptera (Editor: M. Lödl, vice editor: S. Gaal-Haszler; since 1998).


Exocelina anggiensis Shaverdo et al., 2012
Work for the public

The major activities concerning our work for the public are sketched under this chapter.

work for the public

ausgewählte derzeitige Glanzlichter der Sammlung



The Lepidoptera collection of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna: Dokumentationszentren für Biodiversität:

The big biological collections of the Museum of Natural History are real centres for recording biodiversity. The biodiversity of numerous groups of animals and plants finds ist climax in the rain forests and cloud forests of this planet. The understanding of these complex systems is depending on the power of scientific investigation. The understanding of these kybernetic structures as well is the key for the future protection of the richest and most fragile biological networks found on earth. Our collections - sometimes not enough recognized by the public and the authorities - help to provide this key. Join this page for a step into the biodiversity of the Lepidoptera of the tropics!

An illustrated checklist of the Austrian Noctuoidea

by Martin Lödl, Sabine Gaal-Haszler, Peter Huemer, Sarah Saadain, Gábor Ronkay & László Ronkay 2017

In May 2017 the Heterocera Press, the Natural History Museum Vienna and the Tyrolean State Museum published a homepage listing and illustrating the Noctuoidea fauna of Austria. The website contains a taxonomic list of all species. Altogether the homepage illustrates 730 taxa, four specimens of each species, in most cases two males, two females and wingspan for size reference.

The colour plates are accessible via clicking onto the name of the given taxon or using the search function. A taxon can be found by entering the name (or a part of the name) of the genus, species or subspecies into the field above the checklist.
Genitalia and habitat pictures for all the taxa will be available in the future. Furthermore, a short bilingual introduction and a distribution map will be added soon.
The website is open access and available through the following link: