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Matchmaking for Monarch butterflies

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Every year it happens. Perhaps it’s your neighbour, or someone else in your street… looking for monarch caterpillars or "more food" for starving monarch caterpillars.

In recent years it’s kept volunteers at the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust really busy, trying to find people in different communities to "match up", caterpillars to swan plants, but this year the monarchs have their very own matchmaking agency.

"There are always pockets around the country where there are healthy swan plants which female monarchs haven’t found," said Jacqui Knight from the MBNZT. "And there are other people who find their swan plants are stripped by the hungry caterpillars. Now, thanks to web-based technology, there’s a site where people can list their details and hopefully be introduced to someone who can come to their aid."

The site has only been created but already there are people from all corners of the country networking to lift monarch numbers before the end of the summer.

"As well as other predators, over recent years we’ve seen a huge increase in the numbers of paper wasps. Many people now raise their caterpillars under cover to protect them," said Jacqui. So it can be disappointing if you run out of food… or you have plenty of food and no monarchs laying."

Jacqui is convinced that there is something affecting monarch numbers. "I’ve been raising monarchs since I was a child, and you get used to the natural swings of Nature, the booms and the busts. But this is something else again."

"I’m liaising with scientists who know more than me, and hope to be able to figure out what is happening."

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