INDEPENDENT NEWS

Great examples of NZ butterfly habitat

Published: Sat 10 Oct 2009 01:48 PM
PRESS RELEASE
embargoed until Saturday, 10 October
Great examples of NZ butterfly habitat
The Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust is proud to announce three candidates for inaugural awards of being known as ‘Certified Butterfly Garden or Habitat’.
Concern for New Zealand’s endemic butterflies has led to gardeners looking for good examples of how to make their gardens, or wild spaces, more attractive to butterflies. The short list has been announced to coincide with Butterfly Awareness Day, Saturday 10 October.
Children at Verran Primary School have been developing their habitat since 2007. While it is less than half a hectare in size, it complements the rest of the school grounds of this Enviro-school.
“We have planted a wide range of plants to attract Admirals and Copper butterflies,” said teacher Maureen Robertson. “While we have only seen Yellow Admirals to date, we are hopeful that we will soon see Red Admirals, which used to be relatively common around the North Shore.”
West Lynn Garden is a public space in the heart of New Lynn, developed by volunteers since 1983. Trees offer shelter for host plants, and the later addition of a Butterfly House with Monarch butterflies over the summer months is a very welcome bonus for environmental education and wedding parties.
Once again, a range of exotic and native trees offer shelter, and a feature pond with bromeliads offers a spot for water for butterflies and other wildlife.
The third nomination is Te Puna Quarry Park Butterfly Garden near Tauranga, which has grown immensely with the enthusiasm and devotion of local hard-working volunteers. Many schools in the region are benefitting from visits and learning about the habits and habitat of Admirals, Monarchs, Coppers and Blues.
On Saturday, Butterfly Awareness Day, volunteers around NZ will help the public identify endemic butterflies such as the Red Admiral and Forest Ringlet, and advise what can be done to help ensure these beauties don’t disappear from our landscape.
“There are many organisations working to protect kiwi, kokako and even giant snails,” said Trust spokesperson Vicky Steele, “but NZ has very few species of butterflies and they are becoming less known each year.”
South Island lepidopterist Brian Patrick has identified a tiny purple copper butterfly which exists only in one coastal car-park.
“It’s teetering on the edge of survival,” he said. “The plight of our butterfly fauna is heavily dependent on human respect if they are to survive and thrive. Several butterflies are threatened with extinction even before they are described.”
NZ’s Red Admiral is another classic example.
“World-renowned lepidopterist Nigel Venters says that the NZ Red Admiral, Bassaris gonerilla, known as Kahukura to the Maori, is the most beautiful in the world,” she said. “But in many places now you don’t see it any more although it was once common all over the country. Admirals breed on stinging nettle–and gardeners and developers think this is a ‘nasty weed’ to be eradicated.”
People are also keen to know how to help the native Monarch butterfly in their own garden, finding out more about its host plants and a range of plants to provide nectar to butterflies and bees.
“We have rolled our butterfly fauna back to the mountains and far-flung places,” added Patrick. “so that now many once familiar species are no longer found in cities, towns or surrounding countryside.”
“Sadly, young New Zealanders are no longer familiar with even our commonest butterflies because of the elimination of them from our cities, towns and countryside. Good on the Monarch Trust for taking up this initiative.”
Locations of Butterfly Awareness Days, with key contact people, are listed below. There will be activities for children, and hopefully live specimens on display. The certification awards will be announced in November.
ENDS

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