Provincial Partner

What we do

Annual lecture
Butterfly atlas
Moth Atlas
Moth Checklist
Contribute Records
Other Publications
Field trips
Insect counts
Student symposium
Research grant

About the TEA

Rearing Permit
Membership / Donate

About insects

Insects of Ontario
Endangered sp. / Laws
Butterfly Gardening

Contact us

For Ontario Nature

Herp Atlas

Laws Regarding Insects (esp. endangered species laws)

Two important Ontario laws that pertain to insects are the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 and the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007. The text of both laws is available on the Ontario government's e-laws website. The federal government protects endangered species through the Species at Risk Act. These laws, and other laws of interest to insect people, are described in detail below.

National Parks

Tagging monarch butterflies is not permitted in our National parks, including Point Pelee National Park. Similarly, capturing ova and larvae for rearing is also prohibited, as is collecting of specimens. Researchers can apply for special permits.

Noxious Weeds Act (Ontario)

See this link for the current list of species covered under this legislation, which is generally aimed at assisting weed control in order to benefit agriculture. Note that the list no longer includes milkweed (foodplant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar) and wild carrot (foodplant of the black swallowtail caterpillar). Also, it now includes dog strangling vine, which is not a foodplant for monarch caterpillars even though female monarch butterflies sometimes lay their eggs on it (as it is part of the milkweed family).

Conservation Authorities Act (Ontario)

Section 5(a) of Ontario Regulation 688/21 ("Rules of Conduct in Conservation Areas") issued under the Conservation Authorities Act, provides that: "No person shall, in a conservation area, except under a permit issued by an authority... kill, trap, pursue or disturb a wild bird, reptile or animal." In addition, an email to the TEA dated June 28, 2022 from one of the conservation authorities advises:

"No one is permitted to collect any species of plant or animal from properties owned by a Conservation Authority, unless explicitly permitted through the issuance of a Permit. Permits are typically only issued for valid scientific research and are issued on a case by case basis, based upon the merits of the research. Unlawful collection or disturbance of wildlife, including insect adults, larvae and eggs, are subject to fines pursuant to regulations made under Section 29 of the Conservation Authorities Act."

Some conservation areas issue permits for research and monarch tagging.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (Ontario)

The text of this law is provided here. There are two main types of provisions in the law.
(1) One type applies to "wildlife", which includes all animals that are wild by nature. This would appear to include invertebrates (including insects).
(2)The other type applies to "specially protected wildlife", which includes "specially protected invertebrates" as one category. Certain butterflies are part of that.

a) Activity in Provincial Parks

Section 9(1) makes it illegal to hunt, trap or possess wildlife in a provincial park or Crown game preserve.

This issue is also addressed in Ontario's Provincial Parks and Conservations Reserves Act, 2006. In respect of provincial parks, section (2)(a) of Regulation 347/07 under this Act states "(2) Except with the written authorization of the superintendent, no person shall, (a) disturb, cut, kill, remove or harm any plant, tree or natural object in a provincial park..." Although "natural object" is not defined, it appears to be broad enough to include insects.

Research permits are are available: go to the Ontario Parks webstite for the form, Application to Conduct Research.


b) Release of Imported Insects

The FWCA makes it illegal to release in Ontario any wildlife or invertebrates that is imported into Ontario or originates from stock that is imported into Ontario (section 54).

This rule does not only apply to exotic species; there appears to be no exemption for releases of species which naturally occur in Ontario. Thus, for example, if a person ordered eggs of the cecropia silkmoth from a dealer in Prince Edward Island and then released in Ontario the caterpillars or adults resulting from those eggs, he or she would be contravening the law.

c) Species Protected Elsewhere

A person shall not possess any wildlife or invertebrates that were killed, captured etc. contrary to laws of another jurisdiction or that were removed from another jurisdiction contrary to the laws of that jurisdiction (section 58 (1)). For example, it is illegal to have in one's collection any insects that were caught in violation of another country's endangered species laws.

d) All Ontario - Particular Species

The FWCA has major implications for people who raise insects, collect insects, or trade or exchange dead insect specimens.

Various activities in respect of any "specially protected invertebrate" are not allowed. These include the following.
-hunting or trapping (i.e., collecting): section 5(1).
-propagating (i.e., breeding): section 45(1)
-keeping in captivity (i.e., rearing and possibly also banding): section 40(1)
-buying or selling, including exchanging or bartering: section 48(1). Gifting is apparently not prohibited.

The penalties for violating these rules range from $150 to $250 per instance. However, it may be possible to be exempted from this rules through obtaining a licence from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. This is discussed further below.

Regulation 669/98 to the Act defines "specially protected invertebrate" to include the following 14 species, all of which are butterflies:

  • Black Swallowtail (P. polyxenes)
  • Bog Elfin (C. lanoraieensis)
  • Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (P. canadensis)
  • Eastern Giant Swallowtail (P. cresphontes)
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (P. glaucus)
  • Frosted Elfin (C. irus)
  • Karner Blue (L. melissa samuelis)
  • Monarch (D. plexippus)
  • Mottled Duskywing (E. martialis)
  • Old World Swallowtail (P. machaon)
  • Pipevine Swallowtail (P. philenor)
  • Spicebush Swallowtail (P. troilus)
  • West Virginia White (P. virginiensis)
  • Zebra Swallowtail (E. marcellus)

Note that this list includes not only rare or endangered species but also many common species, notably monarch butterflies and all Ontario species of swallowtail butterflies.

The above rules apply not only to living insects but also dead specimens or any part of a specimen (section 1(2)). The insect need not originate in Ontario to be included. Thus, the purchase of Zebra Swallowtail specimens caught in Florida is not allowed.

The TEA believes that the Karner Blue and the Frosted Elfin no longer exist in the wild in Ontario, although they do occur elsewhere. This is the status which they have been assigned by the list maintained by the federal committee of experts, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

e) Exception for 1 Specimen

Section 40 (2) allows a person to keep one specially protected invertebrate in captivity for the purposes of personal education without a licence, provided that the species is not listed under the Ontario Endangered Species Act or the federal Species at Risk Act. Those species are listed below.

The 1-specimen rule appears to mean one at a given time, so a person could rear one Monarch in July and another Monarch in August.

This exception allows for one specially protected invertebrate, not one of each species.

f) Exception for Permits and Licences

Section 39 allows the MNRF to issue a licence permitting a person to capture, kill or possess wildlife for scientific or educational purposes. Section 40 (1), which applies to specially protected wildlife in particular, gives authority to the government to issue licences and to make regulations about the rules applying to licencees.

The form used by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to grant a licence or permit for all of the purposes listed above is titled "Application for a Wildlife Scientific Collector's Authorization". Although the title of the form might seem to imply that the licence is only issued for scientific research, the legislation allows licences to be issued for educational purposes also (as discussed above). The form is not available on the web, so contact an MNRF office for a copy.

The office within MNRF which would have to approve an application for a licence depends on the geographic scope of the application. MNRF divides the province into 3 regions, and each region is divided into districts. An application for just one district might be approved by the district office, while an application for a larger area might have to be approved by the regional office or the head office.

The TEA has such a permit. It applies to TEA members who have asked to be listed under the permit. More details are provided on this TEA page.

Furthermore, under Regulation 668/98 to the Act, a person who is issued a "zoo" licence may keep live game wildlife and specially protected wildlife in captivity and also may buy, sell or propagate them. Such a person may also hunt or trap in order to collect specimens for rearing purposes. It appears that a "zoo" can be an individual person who wishes to rear insects, and is not restricted to a zoo in the traditional sense. The definition used in the Regulation is "a place where game wildlife or specially protected wildlife is is kept in captivity for display to the public and for conservation, educational or scientific purposes."

The penalty for violation of the FWCA is not entirely clear.

As noted above under "Activity in Provincial Parks," many activities affecting wildlife are not permitted in provincial parks. Similarly, as discussed above under the Conservation Authorities Act , conservation areas also have rules regarding wildlife. In particular, neither provincial parks nor conservation areas permit capturing monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars for the purposes of rearing.

g) Exception for pre-1997 Activity

The Act only came into force in 1997, so activities which took place before 1997 are not covered by the law. Hence it is not against the law to have a butterfly collection containing specially protected invertebrates if the specimens were collected before 1997. However, selling those specimens after 1997 would be prohibited.


Endangered Species Act, 2007 (Ontario)

This law came into force on June 30, 2008 and replaces the Endangered Species Act, 1990. Under the new law, Ontario will classify species at risk into the following categories:

  • Extinct – no longer lives anywhere in the world
  • Extirpated – lives somewhere in the world, lived at one time in Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario
  • Endangered – lives in the wild in Ontario, but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation
  • Threatened – lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors that appear to be leading to its extinction or extirpation
  • Special Concern – lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

If a species is listed as an extirpated, endangered or threatened species, the Bill prohibits killing, harming, harassing, capturing, taking, possessing, collecting, buying, selling, leasing, trading or offering to buy, sell, lease or trade a member of the species. In addition, if the species is endangered, damaging or destroying the habitat of the species is also prohibited.

As of April 2024, the Ontario list of species at risk includes protections for four Ontario butterflies and 1 Ontario moth:
-Karner Blue (L. melissa samuelis) -- extirpated.
-Frosted Elfin (C. irus) -- extirpated.
-Eastern Persius Duskywing (E. persius persius) -- extirpated.
-Mottled Duskywing (E. martialis) -- endangered.
-False-foxglove Sun Moth (Pyrrhia aurantiago) -- endangered

In addition, two butterflies are listed in an unprotected " special concern" category:
-Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).
-West Virginia White (Pieris virginiensis).

Species at Risk Act (Federal)

Protections offered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) apply only to insects on federal lands, such as national parks or aboriginal reserves. Insects on other types of land, inlcuding private lands, are not protected; the protections extended to "aquatic species" on these lands do not apply to aquatic insects. The protections prohibit specified activities with respect to any species that is classified under Schedule 1 of this Act as endangered, threatened or extirpated. The prohibited activities with respect to individuals of those species are as follows:
-kill, harm, harass, capture, or take
-possess, collect, buy, sell or trade
-damage or destroy the residence

For any such species, the federal Department of the Envionment is required to present a recovery plan within four years of its first listing on Schedule 1, and to report on the implementation of that plan every 5 years. However, this is a planning and reporting requirement only; there is no statement that the goals of the plans must be met.

As of April 2024, there are 4 Ontario butterflies and 3 Ontario moths listed under SARA:
-Karner Blue (L. melissa samuelis): extirpated
-Frosted Elfin (C. irus): extirpated
-Eastern Persius Duskywing (E. persius persius): endangered [Note that this is listed as extirpated on the Ontario list above.]
-Monarch (D. plexippus): endangered (see the December 2023 announcement).
-Aweme Borer Moth(Papaipema aweme)
-Bogbean Buckmoth (Hemileuca sp.)
-Yucca Moth (Tegeticula yuccasella)

COSEWIC (see below) has recommended that the Mottled Duskywing (E. martialis) be classified as endangered, but no action has yet been taken by the federal government.

Species listed as being of "special concern" are not protected under SARA.

COSEWIC Insect Assessments

The federal and provincial governments have established a Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) which makes advice about which insects should be put on endangered species lists. COSEWIC has established 10 Species Specialist Subcommittees (SSCs), of which one is for Arthropods, including insects.

Here is a list of the 21 species of insects occurring in Ontario which have been recommended by COSEWIC to be classified as species at risk.

Full details on the status of particular species, including research findings and persons involved in recovery efforts, can be found by clicking on the species name in this list of Ontario arthropods.

An article in the fall 2009 issue of Newsletter of Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods) provides more information on COSEWIC insect assessments.

Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC)

The NHIC in Peterborough is a joint venture of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry with 3 conservation group. The NHIC maintains a database which lists species of Lepidoptera, Odonata and Coleoptera which it considers to be potentially at risk and provides a useful list of references on each one. Numbers of occurrences of these species are also tracked.


Nova Scotia Laws

The monarch butterfly is listed as an endangered species under Nova Scotia provincial law. As a result, an endangered species permit is required for: keeping any life stage of the monarch in captivity (e.g., for rearing purposes); tagging a monarch; and exhibiting in public a dead specimen of a monarch. See this page for more details about the permit and see this page for the list of endangered species.


Importing Insects into Canada

Live Insects

Importing most live insects requires a plant protection permit for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Until 2015, their website included a list of species for which no permit was required, such as for the Painted Lady and the Monarch butterfly.(The current status of this list is unknown.) Approved facilities (e.g., butterfly conservatories) may import a much longer list of species.

Dead Insects

The government's advice is to declare all dead insects you are bringing into Canada. You may have to show that the specimens are not on the CITES list of endangered species; importing dead specimens of these species is an offence. Call the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for more information. For helpful tips on accessing the market for dried insect specimens, see Tom Terzin, "Buying/Selling Insects on the Internet", Entomological Society of Canada Bulletin March 2013 , pp. 25-27.


Home           Top