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Forget about monarchs for a moment, look at NZ moths!
Take some time to appreciate New Zealand’s many amazing moths.
written Dec 30, 2014 • by Jon Sullivan • Category: Wild Changes
Monarch butterflies have got to be New Zealanders’ favourite Lepidoptera. Aside from the cabbage white butterfly, which are unwanted pests of our cabbages and broccoli, monarchs are easily the most abundant butterfly in Christchurch. They are also entirely dependent on all of the swan plants and other milkweeds that people plant in their gardens for the monarch caterpillars to eat. While swan plants established in the wild in Northland, in Christchurch there’s not a single wild plant species that monarch caterpillars can develop on. That’s a remarkable amount of community effort to collectively farm this pretty North American butterfly.
This Kiwi devotion to the monarch is well illustrated by a stylish mural in Christchurch that I discovered recently by artist Ira Mitchell-Kirk. On it, there are four panels, showing a tui (native bird) on a lowland flax (native plant), a fantail (native bird) on a kowhai (native plant), a Mount Cook buttercup (native plant), and, … wait, what? A monarch (North American butterfly) on a generic leaf (most likely the North American swan plant). It’s odd to see a monarch on a mural celebrating natural New Zealand. As pretty as they are, a monarch is as much a natural part of New Zealand as a cow.
It would be nice if a NZ native butterfly of moth could reach the same level of public recognition as the monarch has achieved. New Zealand is a land of some remarkably pretty moths, most of which can be found in NZ cities. They deserve to be well known and celebrated in New Zealand. At the moment, most don’t even have common names. As my small step towards this, I offer a few of my favourite moth species that I managed to photograph this year.
For more New Zealand moth goodness, check out all of the moth observations on iNaturalist NZ. Amaze at the diversity of shapes and textures and colours. No butterflies required.