Founded in Toronto on 16 April 1863, The Entomological Society of Canada was open to “all students and lovers of Entomology”. The first officers were Prof. H. Croft, President; W. Saunders, Secretary Treasurer; and Rev. J. Hubbert, Curator. The organization flourished as interested collectors of insects showed their acquisitions at meetings, discussed the natural history of their favourite species, exchanged specimens, described and named new species, and started museum collections of Canadian insects.
In 1871, at the insistence of the Ontario Government which had begun to provide funds to the Society, its name was changed to The Entomological Society of Ontario. Despite this change, the Society remained the focal point for entomology across Canada, including publication of The Canadian Entomologist which, with, is the oldest currently-published entomological journal in Canada.
Following World War II, there was a nationwide rapid increase in the number of professional entomologists, especially in federal government laboratories, and it was soon recognised that their needs would be best served by a ‘new’ national society that had no implied regional bias. Thus, on 3 November 1950, The Entomological Society of Canada, as it is known today, was founded. Its founding officers were W.A. Ross, President; A.W. Baker, Vice President; W.R. Thompson, Editor; R.H. Wigmore, Secretary; A.B. Baird, Treasurer; and seven Directors.
Responsibility for publication of The Canadian Entomologist was immediately transferred to the new national group. In addition, in 1955 the Society began publication of a series of Memoirs, dealing mainly with studies in systematics. Though publication of the Memoirs ceased in 1997, after 171 issues, they are still sought after by taxonomists. The role of the Memoirs has now been taken over to some extent by the on-line Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, also published by the Society.
The Society was also pivotal in the foundation of the Biological Survey of Canada (BSC) in 1977. Initially developed from a series of contracts between the Society and the federal Department of Supply and Services, the BSC became firmly established in 1980 at the National Museum of Natural Sciences (now the Canadian Museum of Nature) under a continuing partnership with the Society. In 2009 the BSC became a not-for-profit corporation in anticipation of reduced financial support from the Canadian Museum of Nature. The BSC’s ties with the ESC remain very important as the BSC’s current and future work will have a strong entomological component.
Following a persistent decline in the level of research support in federal laboratories beginning in the early 1970s, the Society became much more active in its publication of briefs, green papers, etc., and in its interactions with government. Many of its position papers were bound into the Society’s quarterly newsletter, the Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada, whose publication had begun in 1969.
The Society works closely with Canada’s seven regional entomological societies, one of which serves as the host for the Society’s Annual Meeting, an arrangement that facilitates discussion and exchange of ideas among entomologists across the country. The existence of a national society has also enabled Canada to serve as the host country for the quadrennial meeting of worldwide entomologists, the International Congress of Entomology (Montreal, 1956; Vancouver, 1988).
With a current membership of around 400, including a vibrant student section, the Society remains one of the largest and oldest professional societies in Canada.