Butterfly house takes flight
ROB JONES is on a mission to save our native butterflies.
Jones is working to bring butterflies back to Auckland after aerial spraying and wasp predation devastated the native population of our city.
He’s the driving force behind plans to build a new butterfly house at Eden Garden in Epsom.
The Central Auckland Forest and Bird chairman says native butterflies will be bred in captivity in the house and then released into the garden.
‘‘We’ll also collect their eggs and put them back in the house so they can go through the cycle in peace,’’ he says.
It’s an important project for Jones who says action needs to be taken to help boost the numbers of native butterflies.
The Mt Eden resident says aerial spraying over Auckland in the mid-1990s ruined the city’s butterfly population.
‘‘We did a lot of aerial spraying trying to get rid of apple moths with the planes flying and dusting over Auckland and such,’’ Jones says.
‘‘That wiped out a lot of native butterfly species in the Auckland vicinity and went as far as the Waitakeres as well.’’
Jones says the monarch butterfly was reintroduced but nothing was done about the native butterflies.
The numbers of admiral and copper butterflies were hit particularly hard, he says.
Jones began collecting caterpillars and chrysalises from the South Island and breeding them.
With permission from Auckland Council and funding from Forest and Bird he also planted nettles and other food plants in Balmoral Heights Park and Waiatarua Reserve.
Butterfly numbers began increasing but over the past five years the population has been hit again by a plight of wasps, Jones says.
‘‘It’s a losing battle the way it is,’’ he says.
‘‘I’ve realised that the wasps are getting worse because the winters don’t seem to be knocking them back so much because they are becoming milder.
‘‘So we’re fighting that at the moment.’’
Jones says the new enclosure will shelter the butterflies and allow them to breed away from these threats.
Eden Garden manager Karen Lowther says the charity has raised one-third of the funds to build the $55,000 butterfly house.
Construction will hopefully start in the summer, she says.
Rob Jones collects caterpillars and chrysalises from the South Island and breeds them at his Mt Eden home.
A red admiral butterfly feeds on Hebe at Balmoral Heights Reserve.