NC helps find a new home for significant butterfly collection

Margaret Pickles

One of the area’s most comprehensive butterfly collections has found a new home at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) thanks to the efforts of the NC library and professor Margaret Pickles.

Luna MothsMeticulously gathered and catalogued from the 1940s to the 2000s by amateur entomologist Earl Bailey, the collection includes more than 50 drawers holding at least 1,000 butterflies and moths from the Niagara area. The collection made its way to Niagara College in 2007, where it was inventoried by faculty and students as well as NC’s Research and Innovation department, before being stored in the library.

Pickles, who previously worked at the ROM and now teaches in NC’s School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says the collection is quite significant and will be a boon to researchers and scientists in the fields of taxonomy and biodiversity.

The collection also includes some of Bailey’s correspondence with entomology experts, as well as his 1970 publication “Butterflies of Niagara,” which compared the local butterfly population of the late 1960s with what was chronicled in a similar publication authored by William Wild of the Buffalo Science Museum in 1939.

“So many of our records are from amateur collections like these,” Pickles said.

At a recent Entomology Society of Ontario meeting, Pickles took photos of the collection to share. It turns out the collection is known among experts, and it drew attention from both the ROM and the Canadian National Collection in Ottawa, with the ROM agreeing to take possession of it.

“Now that the collection is at the ROM it becomes available for scientists,” she said. “It really expands the data available on taxonomy and biodiversity.”

Pickles personally delivered the collection to the ROM in early November. Brad Hubley, the ROM’s manager of entomology collections said the museum is very pleased to accept the collection, and reinforces the ROM’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing its holdings of Ontario’s insects a historical record that can help to predict the future conservation of these organisms.

“Mr. Bailey’s collection dates back to the late 1930s and he meticulously recorded his observations and collections,” he said. “Many of these specimens represent unique and historical collecting records for Ontario including locations that have undergone significant change in habitat. As the ROM moves towards a new collection management system to record its vast holdings, this collection will be databased and its information made available to researchers worldwide.”

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