At the Insectarium de Montréal, presenting live exotic insects is important, since it allows visitors to transform their perception of and their relationship with arthropods. But rearing species from elsewhere in the world not only involves many challenges, it also has to respect strict government standards of containment and maintenance. It’s by working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that our museum ensures that this is done.
The CFIA’s role?
This is the government organization responsible for safeguarding Canada’s food, plant and animal resources. It ensures the health and well-being of the Canadian population as well as protection of the environment and maintenance of the economy. This is an important agency, since it acts as a line of defense against the introduction of harmful organisms that could be devastating for our ecosystems. For the CFIA, prevention through regulation remains the most effective way of fighting that threat. Thus, all imports of insects and other arthropods not native to Canada are regulated by that organization.
What happens, specifically?
First, only low-risk arthropods that have undergone rigorous CFIA analysis qualify for our museum activities. Meaning, species that might threaten our ecosystems or our crops are ruled out right off the bat. Next, any species kept in containment must be accompanied by a CFIA import permit. The Insectarium must manage its facilities in accordance with the agency’s accreditation rules, which include guidelines for these specimens’ appropriate containment conditions. Additionally, all personnel must be trained, and respect established measures. Lastly, the museum must obtain transportation permits if it wishes to ship live arthropods to other institutions.
What we see…
Museum visitors will notice certain measures in place. For example, the vivariums that allow for face-to-face encounters with live insects are, in a manner of speaking, sealed escape-proof boxes. Each of them complies with strict containment rules while at the same time making it possible for the public to observe the insects enjoyably and satisfy their curiosity. Also, if you look closely, the conservatory that is home to the free-flying butterflies is surrounded by a well-sealed containment net. Wide vertical plastic bands along with inward-directed ventilation at the conservatory entrances prevent the stars of the show from escaping.
…and what we don’t!
Measures aren’t limited to public spaces. Breeding laboratories benefit from the same level of care and are regularly inspected by the CFIA. In the same way, work methods are in line with regulations. For example, after each regular maintenance, biological waste is destroyed by incineration or freezing at -40°C. Only under these conditions can the museum’s accreditation be renewed every two years.
The collaboration with the CFIA is a complex challenge that requires continuous investment on the part of the Insectarium staff, but that challenge is taken up thoroughly and with great pleasure. Being able to present the world of insects to the public is a privilege, and contributing to its appreciation is part of the wonderful adventure offered by the Insectarium de Montréal.