Monarchs reign in hot Kapiti weather

By Rosalie Willis

Jenson Fields with some monarch butterflies.
Jenson Fields with some monarch butterflies.

People around Kapiti have been seeing a bumper butterfly season thanks to the prolonged heat.

The hot weather, which started earlier than usual, has aided the growth of caterpillars and butterflies around Kapiti.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve manager Matu Booth said with the summer starting earlier than normal, the hot weather had ensured the butterflies had time to hatch.

"It has been better than last year and drier as well.

"Last year, if I remember correctly, was very wet.

"When you hear cicadas, at the height of summer, that's when butterflies are hatching."

After being unsuccessful last year, Waikanae resident Andrew Fraser has just released more than 30 monarch butterflies.

While not native to New Zealand, the monarch butterfly is one of the more common butterfly species to breed in New Zealand because of the ease of growing milkweed, commonly known as a swan plant.

Andrew became interested in butterflies after working in a retirement home that had a swan plant.

"I've had two batches [kaleidoscopes] of monarch butterflies this summer.

"The first was released in December and I had around nine or 10.

"This month I've released about 24 butterflies, my daughter Ella loves them.

"She holds them on her hand until they are ready to fly off."

When posting his success on a local Facebook page Andrew received many comments from fellow Waikanae residents who had also released butterflies in recent weeks.

"I was a bit surprised with the amount of likes and comments.

"At the last count I've released over 30 butterflies and still have more to go.

"I do it so that the community can see and enjoy it.

"When driving or walking down Te Moana Rd I enjoy seeing the butterflies and thinking they could be one of mine."

While the weather has been a catalyst in butterfly growth, many residents are experiencing the caterpillars eating too much of their swan plant.

When asked what people at home can do to help their swan plant be successful Matu said that a trick Nga Manu do is to give the caterpillar grated pumpkin.

This can only be done when the caterpillar is nearing the next stage of going into its chrysalis.

Another tip that Matu offered up is to release your butterflies as soon as they are ready.

"Monarchs hang upside down after they have come out of their chrysalis.

"Allow them to do this then get them outside as soon as possible so they can feed and pollinate flowers."

- Kapiti News

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