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For Ontario Nature
Two important Ontario laws that pertain to insects are the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 and the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007. These laws are amended only rarely. The former Act has been amended effective December 15, 2009 to update the Latin names and add the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (P. canadensis) to the list, while the latter Act has not been amended since it was passed. 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. See the Species at Risk Public Registry for the species protected by this law.
These laws, and other laws of interest to insect people, are described in detail below.
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).
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (Ontario)
There are two main types of provisions in the law.
a) Collecting in Provincial Parks
Subsection 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, paragraph (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.
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 (subsection 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.
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.
Schedule 11 to the Act defines "specially protected invertebrate" to include the following 14 species:
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 list includes only butterflies -- no moths or other insects are included.
The above rules apply not only to living insects but also dead specimens or any part of a specimen (subsection 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
Subsection 40 (2) (b) 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.
This exception allows for one specially protected invertebrate, not one of each species.
f) Exception for Permits and Licences
Under Ontario Regulation 668/98, 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 failing to apply for a licence to own or operate a zoo is $150 (Schedule 17.10, last updated May 29, 2014).
Subsection 40 (2) (c ) allows a person to keep specially protected invertebrates in captivity for any educational or scientific purpose or any other purpose with the authorization of the Minister. This section would allow for keeping insects in captivity for introduction and recovery programs. It could also apply to persons possessing butterflies for education etc.
Despite the reference to a "zoo licence" in the legislation, 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". It 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.
As noted above under "Collecting in Provincial Parks", activities within provincial parks are restricted in respect of all species of invertebrates, not just specially protected invertebrates. In that case, application for a permit should be made to the superintendent of the park using a different form, "Permit to Conduct Research in a Provincial Park."
Some conservation areas also issue their own permits for research and monarch tagging (e.g., Lynde Shores).
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:
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 May 2020, the MNRF website for insects at risk lists 23 species of insects. The four Ontario butterflies in the categories of listing which involve protections are:
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:
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 May 2020, there are 4 Ontario butterflies listed under SARA:
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
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.
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.