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The Toronto Entomologists’ Association: An Insect Club

by Paul Catling

(Ontario Naturalist, Spring 1978, page 14)

The Toronto Entomologists’ Association is a non-profit club devoted to the study and conservation of insects. At monthly meetings in the Royal Ontario Museum, from September to May, speakers from within or outside the club present talks on various aspects of entomology. There are about 40 members distributed across Ontario and guests are welcome at the meetings which are informal, often taking the form of an open discussion.

Projects of the T.E.A.

In 1970 the club produced the first occasional publication. It included a checklist of Ontario Skippers and Butterflies and a summary of butterfly occurrences in Ontario in 1969. The annual summaries of occurrences of Butterflies and Moths became a tradition after this, and an annual summary is now produced each year. These summaries require a lot of work to compile, but contain a great deal of valuable information. They have improved and expanded with time, the 1976 summary being the best ever and covering 28 pages. The T.E.A. has been commended for taking greater interest in the publication of field records than any other club of entomologists. In addition to producing its own local summary, the club provides an abbreviated version for publication in the newsletter of the Lepidopterists Society.

To date seven occasional publications have been produced, and in addition to the Annual Summaries, they have contained an article on the history and status of a small sulphur butterfly (Eurema lisa) in Ontario, notes on the biology of a rare giant silk moth and notes on insects encountered in Columbia, South America.

One of the most important publications of the club (Occasional Publication No. 5, 1975) contained a series of articles on the rare West Virginia White Butterfly (Pieris virginiensis) in Ontario.Included were articles concerning the history of this insect in Ontario, a detailed description of the two known Ontario colonies, and original work on its life history resulting from Ontario studies. In addition a series of letters was included outlining the history of the club’s endeavours to secure the future of this insect in Ontario. This work appears to be the first effort in Canadian history to secure the future of an insect. The West Virginia White is now offered protection under the Ontario Endangered Species Act.

During the spring of 1977, club members participated in a study of the West Virginia White in Halton County Forest, commissioned by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The object was to provide a database for management that would ensure the survival of the butterflies. The abundance and distribution of butterflies in the area was carefully mapped. An indication of population size, longevity and movements was obtained through mark-recapture experiments. Parasites of eggs, larvae and adults were also surveyed. Information was also obtained on various ecological aspects such as factors affecting the abundances of foodplants of both larvae and adults, the location of the pupal resting stage, and the effects of logging. Although there are still many questions to be answered, a good deal of information was gathered that will be useful in planning. Members of the T.E.A. have considered good documentation just as important as agitation, when it comes to the issue of preservation. With the preservation of the habitat of the West Virginia White in Halton Forest comes the protection of several other insects including two very rare moths, some uncommon species of grasshoppers and beetles, not to mention some unusual breeding birds and a remarkably diverse flora.

Ongoing technical projects of the club include an annotated checklist of Ontario Butterflies and Skippers, and a paper concerning the status of rare and endangered butterflies in the province. Valuable specimen records are provided to the Royal Ontario Museum. Some club members are involved with detailed studies of life histories of butterflies and moths. This work has resulted in the identification of certain larval and resting stages which have never before been described. It is hoped that in the future the club will grow and branch out to include similar work on other major groups of insects.

In addition to specific research projects, committees and individual members take responsibility for public displays that help to draw attention to insects. The display of butterflies in the Discovery Room at the Royal Ontario Museum was largely donated by club members, and displays have appeared in most Toronto shopping centres. A recent exhibit in the Toronto CN Tower accompanied a “Salute to Canadian Wildlife”.

Insects are a very large and relatively poorly understood group, but just as fascinating as any other group of living organisms. They are subject to the pressures of our growing population and technology, but are largely overlooked because of their small size. Many nature lovers pay them little attention in favour of birds, mammals and wildflowers.

If you feel a developing interest in insects, why not join the Toronto Entomologists, and develop it further? Even if you are located outside the city the regular newsletters and publications will enable you to reap the benefits and at the same time to support some our valuable projects.

Paul Catling is a Past President of the T.E.A.