The fly swot Frederick Maurits van der Wulp (1818-1899). A man who spent a lifetime on an obsessively focussed worldwide quest to audit flies. Yup.

Frederik Maurits van der Wulp.

Frederik Maurits van der Wulp
in later years.

Frederik Maurits van der Wulp (1818-1899) was a Dutch entomologist & a civil service auditor in the Dutch Audit Office whose particular interest in insects was drawn towards the study of flies.  He was born and died in the Hague and, during his 81 years on this planet, he travelled all over the planet in search of Diptera. Flies. Flying insects.

With another fly enthusiast, Samuel Constantinus Snellen van Vollenhoven, he compiled the first known exhaustive checklist of the flies (the Diptera) of the Netherlands. The pair of them carefully catalogued (audited) thousands of types of flies and flying insects.

Once done with the Netherlands, der Wulp wasn’t satisfied. He went on to itemise the flying Diptera of Central America and South East Asia. lished many papers on Neotropical Diptera, based especially on the collections found in Amsterdam and Leiden. Many of his specimens came to him in the post, sent from Argentina by another Dutch entomologist, Hendrik Weyenbergh.

Quite how flying insects, new undiscovered ones, were gathered “in the field” is unknown & unfathomable. The amount of work that this entailed too; the aquisition and/or capture of 1000s of intact flies; the drawing of each tiny (some not so) insect meticulously; and the naming; the identifying; the laying out of specific groups of perfectly balanced insects on page after page for our inspection in the plate sections of his many books of the late 1800s.

This took insanity.

For flying insect immortality, der Wulf named a few tiny bugs after himself. Amongst others there’s the Tanytarsus van der Wulp, 1874 (Diptera: Chironomidae) from Central America (widespread distribution in the tropial lowlands of Yucatán and occurs in water bodies with a wide range of environmental conditions); and the Metriocnemus van der Wulp, a genus of non-biting midge (Diptera: Chironomidae).

Der Wulp’s Diptera were drawn for him by a specialist. The scientific illustrator and lithographer, William Purkiss. (1834-1898).

Der Wulp’s exhaustive lifetime flying insect audit is seen as groundbreaking and his mammoth flying insect directories are famous today amongst niche entomologists who study Diptera.

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