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L’Oeil Régional – The newspaper of the Richelieu Valley

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June 29, 2022

Participation in the book Insects and arachnids

Gilles Arbor, for the love of insects

From: Olivier Denommee

Published in May, the book insects and arachnids by biologist Marie-Claude Ouellet aims to be a gateway for a young audience to the fascinating, but all too often misunderstood world of what are commonly called “insects” in Quebec. Internationally recognized, Otterburn Park naturalist Gilles Arbor himself contributed to the project by providing some of the photos used to illustrate this book.

The regional eye he met Gilles Arbor, a great lover of contagious pleasure, at his home to discuss the book in particular. ” [L’autrice] Marie-Claude [Ouellet] is a distant acquaintance for some years, but it was the publisher who contacted me for permission to use some of my photos. It always makes me happy to participate in these kinds of projects, so I accepted! In the sixty pages of the book, a handful of images are of Mr. Arbor, taken from his bank of photos accumulated over the years. “Several were taken in my yard! The great thing about being interested in bugs and spiders is that you don’t have to go far to find them! “

This beetle (Cucujus clavipes) found in Otterburn Park is the subject of cold hardiness studies as it can survive as a larva in temperatures as low as -100 ° C, explains Gilles Arbor. Photo Gilles Arbor

Although he did not participate in its writing, Mr. Arbor believes the book is a great introduction for those who want to learn more about insects and spiders, but also about the living world in general. “A book like this is wonderful! I showed it to my 7 and 10 year old grandchildren and they were amazed at how much they learned. It is aimed at a young audience, but adults also learn a lot. It starts from the base, because for many everything is an insect and answers the questions I asked myself when I was younger ”, says the naturalist. “It shows what insects are for, as well as biting and attacking us in the summer. “

Armed with his camera and macro lens, Gilles Arbor does not hide his pleasure in “showing things we otherwise would not have noticed” on various insects, even going so far as to catch a 0.5mm spider! “But, in the book, we learn that there is even smaller, 0.2mm! And when dealing with slightly larger insects or spiders, it allows me to show the details. […] For me, a successful photo is not just aesthetic, it is even if it has something educational to contribute, ”he says.

The Quebecian Mysmena, Canada’s smallest spider, measures just 0.5mm! Photo Gilles Arbor

A different approach
Enjoying great accolades, particularly in Quebec, but also in Canada and internationally for his photos, Gilles Arbor considers himself above all a nature lover who was able to devote all the time he wanted to his passion, when he retired in 2014. “I love nature in general, but insects in particular! At 10 I had a collection of dragonflies and at 12 they made me build an anthill. It’s something that has been with me for a long time. I am neither a biologist nor a photographer [de formation] “I was a businessman – but when I retired I started taking a lot of pictures of birds, then of insects,” he recalls.

This colorful photo shows a native bee (Halictidae – Augochlora pura) feeding on an aster flower in Mont-Saint-Hilaire. Photo Gilles Arbor

He is also the instigator of a Facebook group of Quebec bug photos, where he hoped to find at the time “maybe fifty other idiots who like as much as [lui] “. But the page got a lot more buzz than expected.” We are now 6000 members! I was surprised to see so many people interested in nature and it is fascinating to see the high turnout on this page! Another page, this time dedicated to photos of spiders in Quebec, has 12,000 followers.

“My goal in everything I do is to get people interested in nature. We protect what we love, we love what we know, we know what we are exposed to. This is how people can develop an environmental soul, “he believes. In passing, he scratches the excessively negative message of some environmental movements.” It denounces many things, but it is too heavy, too big to think about all the problems on the planet. Eliminating plastic bags and straws won’t make a big difference. I much prefer the attachment to nature approach: it’s more interesting. Myself, the more I know about insects, the more I see them everywhere! more than before, I am now aware of it! “
Its mission is to help “develop a visceral connection with nature” by exposing the public “to the richness of what is right around us”. “There is no need to go on a safari: we can just go to our backyard or to the park to make some discoveries!” “, She insists. And this philosophy does not only apply to the photos of him, who lived for eight years in a house bordered by a large plot worthy of a park where biodiversity is welcome.

This beetle (Cucujus clavipes) found in Otterburn Park is the subject of cold hardiness studies as it can survive as a larva in temperatures as low as -100 ° C, explains Gilles Arbor. Photo Gilles Arbor

Many projects
In demand nature photographer, Gilles Arbor has been busy in recent years with the inventory of the more than 200 species found in the Bois-des-Patriotes bog in Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu with the help of arachnologist biologist Pierre Paquin for the Center de la nature mont Saint-Hilaire, owner of the place. “Now we’re done exploring and there are species that I was the first to discover in North America, but I’ve received offers for a bog in Brossard and two in Granby. Add to that his participation in photos for various guides, including the new guide to spiders in Quebec, which is expected to be published this fall, as well as for various scientific articles around the world.

The book insects and arachnidsfrom the “Mon Mégadoc” collection by Mega Éditions, it is available everywhere from May 19th.

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