Last year New Zealanders chose their favourite bird for the ‘Bird of the Century’. Now they’re being asked to vote for Bug of the Year.
The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust (MBNZT) is urging them to vote for the red admiral, Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla, which is according to some ‘as rare as the ruru’. The contest, launched by the NZ Entomological Society last year, intends to raise the profile of the little creatures on which our food web depends. Bugs play many critical roles in our environment. Some are pollinators, while others break down and dispose of waste matter. Many are also food for our native birds – including the red admiral.
“This beautiful butterfly species is only found in NZ,” said Jacqui Knight, founding trustee of the MBNZT. There are other red admirals in the world, but ours is very special, epitomising NZ nature.”
A medium-sized butterfly the forewings have a bold, pohutukawa-coloured bar running back from the leading edge of the wing. On all four wings there are eyespots the colour of paua or the sky on a sunny NZ day.
Sadly, the red admiral has disappeared from many of its former locations. In Auckland the loss was noticeable about 25 years ago when the city was sprayed with insecticide to combat the painted apple moth invasion.
“That’s why we’re keen for New Zealanders to vote for the red admiral,” continued Jacqui. “Our members are making concerted efforts to encourage others to grow its host plant and nectar plants this summer.”
Jacqui would be delighted if someone like media celebrity John Oliver, host of ‘Last Week Tonight’, would take up the cudgels.
“He did so much to raise the profile of our beautiful native birds in the ‘Bird of the Century’ contest. It would be amazing if we could give the red admiral the same status. Perhaps there’s a celebrity out there who will help us.”
Anyone can vote for the red admiral – or whatever bug you choose – here.