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Convenience food mentality affects monarchs

Convenience food mentality affects monarchs

Monarch butterflies are suffering, not only from wasps and pesticide use, but also from a ‘convenience food mentality’ says the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust.

“We see this happening every season,” says Rebecca Bibby, Chair of the Trust which has been active in conservation for ten years. “People see the first monarchs return and go and buy swan plants. Most of the plants on sale are less than one year old and cannot withstand the onslaught from the female monarchs, desperate to lay their eggs before they die.”

The Trust encourages people to offer more habitat for butterflies: swan plants (for monarchs) that are at least one or two years old, inter-planted with other bushes and flowering plants offering nectar and shelter for the insects. Other species of butterfly need their own host plants: for instance kahukura, the beautiful red admiral only found in New Zealand, needs stinging nettle.

“Many people think that stinging nettle is a ‘terrible weed’ and should be eradicated from the face of the earth,” said Jacqui Knight, secretary of the MBNZT. “But in fact it has some really beneficial values in the garden as well as being a host plant for the admirals. The sting can quickly be nullified by other garden plants.

Advice from the MBNZT is for butterfly lovers to buy twice as many plants this season, and ensure that some are netted over so that they will be useful in the garden next summer.

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Seeds can also be planted now for future years. The Trust has put a number of ideas on their website and in their spring magazine, available now to their financial supporters.

“Seeing butterflies in the garden is such a wonderful way for children to become more aware of the wonders of nature,” said Rebecca. “And it’s a relatively cheap exercise too – great to get them away from their computer games.”


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