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For Ontario Nature

Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

Toronto Entomologists Association: An Amateur's Role

Alan Hanks, T.E.A. Past Treasurer

(Reproduced from Newsletter of the Michigan Entomological Society. vol. 50 Numbers 3&4, December 2005.)

Early in 1967, there was a group of mostly amateur enthusiasts in the Toronto area, plus their mentor, Father Charles Riotte, who worked at the Royal Ontario Museum. Father Riotte was already a member of the Michigan Entomological Society and suggested that a branch of MES might be formed in Toronto, so a letter was dispatched to Julian Donohue, the MES Secretary. He replied that this was not a problem under the MES Constitution, so the Toronto Branch of the MES was "formed".

However, although the first membership list I have from May 1968 is entitled "MES Toronto Branch", the 42 member group was never formalized as such and in early 1969, the Toronto Entomologists Association was formed. I noticed that one member on that first list was Dr. Paul Syme of the Forestry Insect Laboratory in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Paul is still a member. In those early days, we had a good relationship with the entomology department at the Royal Ontario Museum and Father Riotte. Later on the head of the department was Professor Glen Wiggins, whose area of expertise was caddisflies, but he was a good friend to the association. I think that I joined TEA in 1971 or 1972.

A Checklist of Ontario Skippers and Butterflies was produced by Father Riotte and published together with a 1969 Seasonal Summary and these summaries have been produced annually since that date. The first efforts were assembled and handwritten by Quimby Hess and then typed on an old single-carriage machine by yours truly. Quimby continued producing the notes until 1990, and I continued producing the summaries. I later graduated to an IBM machine liberated from the Government when the computer started to take over, and finally my own computer. I produced the summaries from 1991 to 2000 and now we have Colin Jones and Jeff Crolla doing the work, with the records also being made available on a floppy disc.

One thing that became apparent to the TEA membership through the summaries was the fact that there were several butterfly species in Ontario that appeared to have low numbers of reports. One of these was the West Virginia White and in 1970 the only known locality, the Currie Tract in Halton Country Forest, was under threat of quarrying by the Aggregate Producers Association of Ontario. A letter was sent by Paul Catling to the Dept. of Lands & Forests in Toronto, apprising them of the situation and soon the potential quarrying operation was halted. In 1974, another letter was sent to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), requesting the butterfly be protected under the Endangered Species Act and in 1975, a publication was produced on the butterfly with all relevant data. In 1976, a new Hydro corridor was proposed to pass through the Halton Co. Forest and letters were sent to the Ontario Hydro Chairman and the OMNR. A task force was set up within Ontario Hydro and in 1978, the proposed corridor was diverted around the area of concern. Later, in 1979, a colony of the butterfly was discovered in Frontenac County north of Kingston, follwed by colonies being found in Lambton County near London and a location near Saut Ste. Marie. The butterfly was later taken off the Endangered Species list and some aggregate development has now occurred at the original site.

The Karner Blue and Frosted Elfin, both dependent on Wild Lupine, comprise another sad story, with two sites at St. Williams in Essex County and the Pinery at Grand Bend in Huron County, being the only known locations in Ontario. Considerable work was carried out by the TEA on both species, with reports appearing in our annual summaries. In the 1979, the Karner Blue was nominated as a threatened species in the United States and so the TEA began writing letters to the OMNR. Problems at the Pinery site inlcluded development and the advent of all-terrain vehicles tearing up the dune habitat where the wild lupine thrived.

Management plans were created for both sites and lupine seed collection and re-planting were attempted. At the Pinery, the deer population suddenly started to flourish and were not kept out of the Karner Blue areas. Since deer consume everything green within their reach, even the few lupine patches eventually disappeared. In June 1990, the OMNR issued a press release placing both the Karner Blue and the Frosted Elfin on the Endangered Species list, but by then it was almost certainly too late to do anything.

As for other publications, work was started in 1975 by Tony Holmes on an Annotated Checklist of Ontario Butterflies and Skippers, with distribution maps, life history timetables and other data. In 1976, the first section appeared dealing with the Hesperiidae, followed in 1978 by the second section on Danaidae, Satyridae and Nymphalidae. A third section on the Lycaenidae, Papilionidae and Pieridae appeared in 1981. It it was not until 1990, however, that work was started to put the three sections into book form and thus the idea of the "Ontario Butterfly Atlas" was born. There were four authors for the Atlas. Tony Holmes, who of course had done much preliminary work on his three volume checklist, with input from all the annual summaries. Next was Quimby Hess, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of Ontario butterflies in the northern and southwestern areas. Dr. Ronald Tasker contributed a good deal of sage advice and helped with finding the necessary funding. For myself, I acted as the nuts and bolts of the endeavour, dealing with the printer and publisher with regard to the maps, tables and photographs. Many other members made contributions and the association was very proud of the result. The funding consisted of close to $25,000 raised from the Ontario Heritage Foundation, World Wildlife Fund and a few others. The printer already had a good record with natural history publications, but was located in Manitoba, which posed a few logistical problems. However, the finished work appeared in 1991, with production costs for 1000 books and cardboard mailers being approximately $24,500.

Strangely, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who had partially funded the Atlas, sent us a listing of Canadian Endangered Species with mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and plants, but no insects! At the same time, a flyer for a commercial product appeared under the WWF banner, asking for help protecting Canada's Endangered Species and illustrating the Karner Blue!

A recent increase in interest in Dragonflies has led to the T.E.A. publishing a series called "Ontario Odonata", with five annual releases to date, together with a Resource Guide. In addition, through the efforts of Nancy van der Poorten, our past president, we have been having reprints made by the University Press in Toronto of three publications on Dragonflies by E.M. Walker and a book on Cicindelidae by J.B. Wallis. These are out-of-print works which were highly sought after on the second hand market and as soon as the titles appeared on our website and that of the Dragonfly Society, demand was brisk for the three volume set "Odonata of Canada and Alaska" and to date we have sold 177 sets in the U.S., 86 sets in Canada and 27 sets overseas in Europe and Asia.

These efforts, plus our journal "Ontario Insects" illustrates that the Toronto Entomologists Association, in similar fashion to the MES, shows that amateur enthusiasts can have an important role in natural science studies.