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Herp Atlas

Quimby F. Hess Annual Lecture


This annual lecture has now been held nine times. It was cancelled for 2020 due to covid, and 2021 is uncertain:

Saturday, November 23, 2019
Nick Ogden, Public Health Agency of Canada

Saturday, December 1, 2018
Christopher Buddle, McGill University

Saturday, December 2, 2017.
Douglas Tallamy, University of Delaware

Saturday, November 19, 2016.
May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Saturday, November 21, 2015.
Jayne Yack, Carleton University

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Georges Brossard, founder of the Montreal Insectarium

Saturday, November 16, 2013
Arthur Evans, lecturer and author of "Beetles of Eastern North America"

Saturday, November 17, 2012
Orley ("Chip") Taylor, University of Kansas, and director of Monarch Watch

Saturday, November 19, 2011
Peter Hall, co-author, "The Butterflies of Canada"


This lecture is held at the Royal Ontario Museum and is publicized as part of the ROM's events series.

The Lecture is funded by Quimby Hess’ son and daughter, Robert Hess of Nanaimo, B.C. and Jane Hess of Toronto, and their respective spouses Laura and John. They are funding the lecture series in honour of their late father’s forty-year involvement in the TEA and his lifelong passion for the study, collection, and conservation of insects.

Each $3,000 gift is to cover the costs of one annual lecture. The costs may include travel, hotel, meals, an honorarium, rental of the meeting space, etc. The allocation of these costs will be decided by the TEA, depending on the chosen speaker. Any leftover monies for any year would be for the use of the TEA for any purpose (e.g. other speaker costs, student research grants, publications, etc.). The subject of the Hess lecture will be about any type of insects, since Quimby’s interest in insects was very broad.

The TEA is delighted with this gift to honour Quimby. This will make sure the activities he so loved will carry on into the future.


Quimby and the TEA

Quimby was one of the very earliest members of the TEA, joining in 1969. He served as president of the TEA and editor or coeditor of our seasonal summaries of Lepidoptera for 20 years. Despite physical handicaps in his later years which prevented him from attending TEA meetings, Quimby’s interest in the TEA never wavered. When he could no longer read TEA publications on his own, he enjoyed having his family read them to him.

Quimby died in Toronto just before Christmas 2010. He was 94. Just 3 weeks before his passing, he wrote to treasurer Chris Rickard: “I appreciated receiving Ontario Lepidoptera, Ontario Insects and Ontario Odonata 2009. They certainly are a big change from the simpler format of the old days. They are a pleasure to read and to look at, and each publication is a job well done!” Then he urged us on to greater things: “In my opinion the summary should include a section on the moths adding this food for thought. They are more important than butterflies. Whether he was thinking of economic importance, biological diversity, or the number of endangered species, we will never know.

Quimby’s role in our Lepidoptera seasonal summaries cannot be over-estimated. The publication started in 1969 and was published for two more years before languishing for lack of a prime mover. Quimby resurrected the publication in 1975, publishing three years of records at once. When Quimby finally passed on the responsibility after the 1991 summary, it was on a much more solid footing, having grown from 9 contributors to 47 and from 27 pages to 97.

Another proud moment with the TEA was the publication of the Ontario Butterfly Atlas in 1991, which he co-authored with Alan Hanks, Tony Holmes and Ron Tasker. In 167 pages, this pioneering publication presents maps of the occurrence of each butterfly species in Ontario, together with information on foodplants and the dates the butterfly is in each life stage. Quimby especially contributed to the records for the northern and southwestern areas of the province, and more than 2,000 of his specimens have been donated to the Royal Ontario Museum.

Quimby was active in much of the TEA’s work on potentially endangered species. He wrote the TEA’s 1975 study on the West Virginia White, and in 1993 and 1994 he led TEA field trips to St. Williams in search of the Karner Blue and the Frosted Elfin.

Quimby’s insect interest fit well with his career in forestry. Spending many years with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (1941-1975), Quimby travelled all over Northern Ontario. After he retired, he travelled frequently to the tropics. He wrote several TEA articles about his experiences in Colombia, Guyana and the Amazon basin. He spoke at TEA meetings about these experiences several times.

In one of his TEA publications, Quimby reminisced about his best boyhood experiences with butterflies: “The writer remembers his first highlight, the capture of a male Phoebis philea, on October 13th, 1930 [at age 13] in my hometown, Zurich, in Southwestern Ontario. Zurich was only 12 miles from the Pinery, south of Grand Bend. In the 1930s, it was paradise for a naturalist. I remember May 2nd, 1936 especially. This was a record hot year and I made several first-time occurrence records, including Euchloe olympia. When I showed one of my University of Toronto professors, Dr. Fred Ide, the specimens, he was quite excited. Along with the Orange-barred Sulphur, it was donated to the ROM.””

Quimby’s Life

Quimby was born in the German-settled hamlet of Zurich, ON, on August 23rd, 1917. At Zurich P.S. when a teacher brought in a Cecropia cocoon so the children could watch the moth emerge, he began a life-long love affair with the natural world and in particular the miracle of butterflies and moths. His reverence for nature consumed him his entire life and his house was a repository of all his various passions. He was an ardent birder. His arrowhead collection, found mostly at The Pinery, was later donated to the University of Western Ontario. He graduated from Exeter H. S., the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto (1940), and received the degree Forest Engineer in 1952. His career took him from the cultivated farm country of his youth in Huron County to the rough and tumble landscape of Northern Ontario where he thrived, running survey crews, and managing logging camps for Spruce Falls Power and Paper Co., Kapuskasing, ON.

In the early 1940s, he joined the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests and was a district forester in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, then a regional forester in Cochrane and Peterborough. From 1961-1967 he was director of the Ontario Forest Technical School near Dorset, ON. In 1967, he received the Centennial Medal from the government of Canada. During his career as a forester, Quimby worked on the Ontario Insect Survey in Northern Ontario. His final posting was to Toronto where he lived for the next 43 years (1967-2010). After retiring, Quimby worked for the Quetico Foundation and for C.I.D.A. in Guatemala.

In the 1970s, Quimby heard the siren call of the great rainforests of South America and with Norm Tremblay travelled to Leticia, Colombia, and Tingo Maria, Peru. He also collected in Guyana and across Canada and the U.S. Anywhere there was a sunny summer meadow alive with butterflies, insects and bees, Quimby would stop, grab his butterfly net, position his protesting family in lawn chairs and take off, loping happily into the bush. For more than twenty years, he owned a tree farm near Baysville, ON ­300 acres of solitude with its own lake and apple orchard. His happiest moments, he once said, were spent in the Amazon watching bright blue Morphos flitting in the sun.

Recollection of Quimby

Alan Macnaughton

When I joined the Toronto Entomologists’ Association 40 years ago, we were a small group of just over 30 people, with perhaps half of that coming out to any particular meeting. We were a committed bunch, and age, occupation, etc. did not matter – all that mattered was our common interest in insects. So, I was 17 and Quimby Hess was 50, and in normal life we would be unlikely to become friends, but I thought he was great guy who had wonderful tales to tell. He spoke about his trip to a rain forest in Guyana, South America, driving over roads dotted with large chunks of rocks to prevent washouts from heavy rains, all in pursuit of the shimmering blue Morpho butterflies. That was the life, I thought. Many years later, after I was back in the Toronto area and had time again for insects, we made contact again. I remember visiting him in his last year. He was sitting in his favourite arm chair, with all of his butterfly things around him, and we talked about what the TEA was doing.


Pictures (to be added)


Quimby morpho display

Video of Quimby's favourite butterfly, Morpho didius

Quimby, District Forester, Lands and Forests, 1950

Quimby, Director, Ontario Forest Ranger School, 1965

On the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the Confederation of Canada the Centennial Medal is conferred on Quimby Ferdinand Hess, Esquire, B.Sc.F., F.E. in recognition of valuable service to the nation July 1, 1967

Quimby Hess at the Wetodah Indian village about 25 kms. from Leticia

Thysania aggripina, a giant owlet moth held by Norm Trembly near Leticia

Quimby and "Norman" (his dog) chasing the elusive butterfly June 1979

Quimby at Jane's house, 1980

The quintessential Quimby: Invuvik, NWT July 1981

Ontario Butterfly Atlas (front cover), 1991

Quimby Hess, Christmas 2007

Quimby Hess, photo by Don Davis, 2007