Our native Red Admiral and Yellow Admiral butterflies, once common in New Zealand, are seldom seen these days. They depend on a favourite food plant, the stinging nettle. They lay their eggs on the nettle leaves, which provide food for the hatched larvae.
Thanks to naturalists and butterfly enthusiasts, including Friends of Maungawhau committee member Rob Jones and the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust, stinging nettles are now being planted and grown in Auckland.
Because Admiral butterflies tend to congregate around hilltops to find mates, the nettles on Maungawhau are an important habitat in a coordinated breeding programme. Nettles have been planted in several places, well away from paths and tracks, in Eden Garden and on the maunga. These vtial patches of ground nettles (Urtica Incisa) must not be dug out or mistakenly sprayed, as happened earlier this year (see the photo below).
|Stinging nettles on Maungawhau|
inadvertently sprayed by contractors
in an attempt to kill Italian aru
On Love Your Mountain Day, Sunday 9 December, there will be a release of Red Admiral and monarch butterflies in Government House grounds.
Come along at 12pm to see this rare and special event, and learn more about preserving and nurturing Admiral butterflies from Jacqui Knight, trustee and secretary of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust.
Weather check: The butterfly release is weather-dependent.