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George Brossard and his bugs

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George Brossard

George Brossard teasing a scorpion

I’d never heard of George Brossard before coming across this article (in French) in the magazine L’Actualité. But the guy is so amazing that I wanted to blog about him. The world always needs more entomologists, and he’s an entomologist’s entomologist.

The mayor of LaPrairie, near Montreal, was killed by a wasps in a most unfortunate accident, so reporter Marie-Claude Lortie interviewed Brossard about it. He commented on it, but the interview quickly veered into a fascinating life story.

(Yes, wasps are dangerous, but there would be fewer problems if people knew about bugs. When running away from angry wasps, Brossard says, just duck; they can’t see down,they’ll fly right over you. Or shelter in bushes, they don’t like thick foliage.)

Long ago Brossard quit his job as notary public to indulge full-time his life-long passion for insects. The result: over a quarter million specimens collected over 140 countries, the world’s largest private collection. Or so it was: it is much smaller now since Brossard has donated huge numbers of the showiest specimens to the various Insectariums (insects museums) that he has founded, starting with the one in Montreal. This alone would make him a remarkable individual.

But his passion encompasses not only knowing about insects, but discovering their potential for, among other things, a source of food for the world. You can listen to him on video on this BBC recording here. Insects are indeed a great, mostly unexploited, sustainable source of protein.

An indie movie, The Blue Butterfly, with William Hurt, was based on one of the many anecdotes that happened through his insect-collecting life. Here’s his take on the real-life incident that has led to the movie (loosely translated from Lortie’s French):

So then, I was at the opening of the Insectarium and a kid in a wheelchair wants to talk to me…I tell the journalists to shut up because I want to hear him. He says he wants to catch a blue butterfly – here, a morpho – because he’s going to die. So I smack him on the leg and I tell him: hey! Will you stop saying stuff like that, that you’re gonna die!”
Lortie: The rest of the story is incredible. Thanks to the Rêves d’enfants (Children Dreams) program, Brossard manages to take the boy, who has advanced brain cancer, to a butterfly hunt in Mexico. In the jungle, the eight-year old boy, who can’t walk, is carried on Brossard’s shoulders. But somehow the boy regains his ability to walk after catching his cherished morpho butterfly, and realises that his cancer is disappearing. “A scene they never agreed to put in the movie, was when I threw his wheel chair off a cliff. It went down, broke, and a wheel went flying in the air, as if finally freed…”

David, the boy, now an adult, is alive and well. When not collecting, Brossard is active in social causes ranging from help to mentally challenged kids to the creation of a wildlife parc along the shores of the St-Lawrence Seaway, so that city kids can enjoy nature.

So here you go: a true science and nature hero, and Canadian to boot. There are few enough of them, and they are so inspiring, we should treat them like hockey players or something.

A blue Morpho

A blue Morpho

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Written by enviropaul

August 16, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I love people like this. I want to lunch with him.

    John Mastick

    May 16, 2016 at 8:13 pm


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