Almost all of the butterflies in New Zealand are native and most are endemic. Compared to big, colourful species from other countries, our native butterflies are small and secretive.

When someone mentions the word butterfly, what image pops into your head? Chances are, it’s the monarch butterfly or the white butterfly, as these are our most visible butterflies.

Did you know that New Zealand has only a few butterfly species? In spite of the small number, there’s a lot we don’t know about our butterflies. The alpine habitats, camouflage and sluggish life cycles of our native butterflies make them tricky insects to find and study in the wild. Even our well known butterflies have experts scratching their heads about their habits.

Some of the people helping to fill the gaps in our butterfly knowledge are citizen scientist groups like the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust (MBNZT), led by Jacqui Knight. Volunteers gather information by tagging butterflies and by walking transects to collect data about the number and locations of all our butterfly species.

The MBNZT welcomes school involvement. Children become citizen scientists by following established protocols and can engage in interesting and authentic research.

Visit The Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust (MBNZT) website.

Published 16 May 2010