Selected and recent highlights of the Collection

The König-collection

Agrias sardanapalus intermedicusFelizitas and Fritz König (Saalfelden, Austria) gathered one of the most important collections of Neotropical butterflies (Rhopalocera) with a special score on the fauna of Peru.
Additional parts of the collection represent tropical Swallowtail-butterflies (Papilionidae), Apollos (Parnassius), South American Hawk moths (Sphingidae), Emperor moths (Saturniidae), Prominents (Notodontidae) and Tigers (Arctiidae).
The collection is housed in 662 drawers (40x50 cm) and 11 drawers (41x52 cm) and comprises a total of some 41.000 specimens, which in fact represent the impressive number of 12.700 (!) different species and subspecies. As mentioned the major part of the samples is coming from the South American fauna and contains 85 type-specimens. Exceptionally rich in types are the Whites and Yellows (Pieridae). Remarkable is the presence of some very rare hybrids of the genera Heliconius and Papilio, as well as the gynandromorph forms of some Morpho- and Pieridae-species.

Some of the rare and prominent groups are present with a remarkable number of specimens. The genus Agrias - rare and highly appreciated by private collectors - is represented with 200 pieces, the genus Prepona figures the same. The giant blue butterflies of the genus Morpho are also numerous (800 samples in 45 drawers). Another focus is the genus Anaea (480 specimens in 11 drawers). The South American Swallowtail-butterflies hold a total of 1450 samples in 36 drawers. Some rarities are also found in the Southeast Asian butterflies, including the legendary birdwings, e.g. the largest butterfly of the world, Ornithoptera alexandrae and closely related species in 200 specimens and 15 drawers. The remaining part of the Swallowtail-butterflies are housed in an additional 31 drawers and are present in a high number of species in nearly 1000 samples.
All specimens are mounted and labelled carefully and carry full data, a fact responsible for the high scientific value of the König-collection. Numerous biologist from many countries had been invited to work with material from this collection, particular reference is found in groups like Pieridae and Morphidae. The family Erycinidae and the genus Thecla (Lycaenidae) seem to turn out as a very valuable field for further work. These groups are waiting for a specialist!

The Vartian-collection

One of the most valuable additions of the 20th century to the collections of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna is the acquisition of the "Eva Vartian collection" of Macrolepidoptera. The collection was obtained in September 1995 and has been transferred to a new suite of rooms on the top floor of our building where it is stored in its own room, number 617 - the "Vartian Hall".

the Vartian collection is without doubt a milestone in the entomological history of Austria. Mrs. Eva Vartian was married to a carpet dealer in Vienna. Before he died, she accompanied her husband on numerous collecting trips to the Near and Middle East and assembled one of the largest and most valuable collections of Macrolepidoptera from this region. Between 1960 and 1975 over 30 expeditions to the following countries were undertaken: Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Armenia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prior to this collecting trips were restricted to parts of southern Europe (the former Yugoslavia, Greece, France and Spain).

The Vartian collection contains all major families of the Macrolepidoptera and because each country was visited on more than one occasion between February and October it represents a comprehensive survey of the biodiversity of the Near and Middle East. Early spring and autumn species are particularly well represented and although the main emphasis is on the Noctuidae (Owl moths) and Geometridae (Loopers) the collection is rich in Zygaenidae and Arctiidae. The collection is housed in nearly 1000 drawers and is in perfect condition. It contains over 140.000 set specimens with several thousand additional pinned, assorted accessions. The Noctuidae are best represented with over 60.000 specimens. Most trifine noctuids have been investigated in detail in the past (see publications of L. Ronkay and L. Peregovits, Budapest, Z. Varga, Debrecen), and work on the Geometridae is in progress. The total number of types has been estimated at around 4400 but a detailed analysis of the major families represented give the following figures: Zygaenidae (510), Arctiidae (230), Cossidae (100), Noctuidae (2540) and Geometridae (920).
The collection is available for study and colleagues with research interests in Middle Eastern Lepidoptera who intend to visit the "Vartian Hall" are invited to contact our department.

The Holzinger-collection

Holzinger-CollectionAn incomparable, formerly privately owned collection of Neotropical butterflies is housed in the Museum of Natural History in Vienna since 1996: Ruth and Helmuth Holzinger's Heliconius collection. This life work of the extraordinary couple includes some 2.900 specimens and is the basis of their monograph: Holzinger, H. & Holzinger, R. 1994: Heliconius and Related Genera, Lepidoptera Nymphalidae: the Genera Eueides, Neruda and Heliconius.- Venette: Sciences Nat, 328 pp.

The Holzinger collection was integrated into the main collection of the Museum by Mag. Astrid Keber (Vienna/ Buenos Aires) during 1996. With the addition of the Holzinger collection, the museum's Heliconiinae collection now includes between 6.500 and 7.000 specimens. The genus Heliconius forms the main part of the collection, and includes more than 120 type specimens. Holzinger specimens can be identified by an extra label noting the provenance and the date of receipt.

The collection follows HOLZINGER & HOLZINGER (1994). In the drawers each subspecies is presented with a distribution map for geographic orientation. Colour photographs of types which are not in possession of our museum are integrated, thus enabling direct comparison with available types. An inventory of the Heliconiinae collection is available for guests of the Museum as a list of type specimens.

Ornithoptera meridionalis

- the rarest and most outstanding birdwing butterfly from New Guinea

Ornithoptera meridionalisFor the Lepidoptera-collection the acquisition to the millenium is a pair of the birdwing species Ornithoptera meridionalis ROTHSCHILD, 1897. We had been fortunate enough to obtain one male and one female of this rarest of all birdwing species from an old private collection.

The birdwing butterflies of the genera Ornithoptera, Trogonoptera and Troides belong to the family Papilionidae (swallow tail butterflies). They are breeding on Aristolochia-plants of the tropic zones of the Indo-Australian Region. Ornithoptera meridionalis is a member of the Paradise-birdwings and is found in the very remote areas of the rainforest of New Guinea. The biology of the species (egg, caterpillar and pupa) was cleared very late, 1967. The species is very much endangered by the destruction of its natural habitat and the uncontrolled progress of plantations. The species therefore is found exceptionally local and only on sites far from civilization.

Together with another female in our collection the Museum of Natural History in Vienna holds now three specimens and both hitherto described subspecies of this rarity which is only known from some dozen specimens worldwide.