But­ter­fly house takes flight

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By ELE­SHA ED­MONDS

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.

Photos: AN­GELA MOON-JONES

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.

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