Patrick Grootaert specializes in diptera (flies, horseflies, mosquitoes, etc.) and heads the Department of Entomology at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. A regular on expeditions in Asia, his participation in the Congo River expedition was a genuine initiation to tropical Africa.
‘Greatly influenced by colonial stories about giant, terrifying, dangerous snakes, I was eager to get to know this part of the world. More than a rich, lush environment, I discovered a warm, frank and expressive people.’
With six other team entomologists, Patrick collected some 14,000 insects and spiders using various trapping techniques: installation of ultra-violet lamps, butterfly nets, insecticide (rapidly biodegradable) in the canopy, etc. In sum, 28 new fly species of the family Hybotidae were discovered, among which the Institute’s team identified a new genus. The fly’s DNA has already revealed its secrets, allowing experts to identify the new genus’s exact characteristics. New species of beetles (including a capricorn during the 2009 preparatory expedition) were also discovered. Their identification was left to other, more specialized international institutions.
‘It is sometimes claimed that the areas near the Congo River are less rich in biodiversity than the country’s mountainous areas. This assertion requires qualification: if one takes the time to understand the forest and to work there during the best of seasons, that is, when the dry season is well under way, one realizes that it is bursting with insects. Not by a long shot has it revealed all of its secrets’.