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Helping the Monarch butterfly.

11 July 2005

People from throughout New Zealand are making a difference, helping the Monarch butterfly.

"We have been inundated with correspondence - email and regular mail," said Jacqui Knight, speaking on behalf of the recently-formed Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust."The letters have been truly heart-warming - with confirmed sightings of overwintering sites in Christchurch, Palmerston North and Hamilton to date, but even episodes of one or two butterflies flying about in Ashburton, Balclutha and Clinton."

The Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust was formed to share knowledge on the much-loved Monarch, but also to undertake scientific research on the butterfly's overwintering habitat at Butterfly Bay in Northland. Letters published in many New Zealand papers have also generated useful facts and figures.

The group has already established a website with information about the Monarch Butterfly and the background of how Butterfly Bay was named. All correspondence has been answered - and seeds of the Asclepias physocarpa (giant Swan Plant) sent all around the country.

Jacqui said that she had been able to find Tim Healy, who wrote of discovering the butterflies' retreat in the June 1963 Weekly News:

"As we entered the bush - which in itself has no claim to beauty - we saw the odd butterfly flitting around, but as we progressed we found the air full of them, twisting and turning in the sunlight. Then we saw that, everywhere, the branches of the trees were festooned with settled butterflies, hanging in clusters on the foliage like colourful Chinese lanterns."

"Some of the sleepers were hanging with their wings closed together, in other clusters, the butterflies were opening and closing their wings as if in some ritual exercise, and the colours glowed on the shafts of autumn sunshine that pierced the foliage, making a picture of indescribable beauty."

"For a while we stood watching. Then, suddenly, as if a warning had been given the butterflies took flight in unison. The whirr of their wings could be distinctly heard, and the air was filled with black and orange against the green of the foliage and the blue of the sky."

"Today there are much less butterflies at the site," she said, "People must wonder why it is even called Butterfly Bay."

"An entomologist will understand many more things about the ecology of an area than someone like me," she said. "We will then share that information with our members and other butterfly lovers, the developers of the property and the immediate community. It should be useful information for anyone wishing to encourage this fragile insect, from which we learn so much about metamorphosis and caring for Nature."

The Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust will then make a submission regarding the protection of the site to the local councils.


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