Some New Zealand notes

John Grehan jrg13 at
Mon Mar 18 11:21:10 EST 2002

I hoped I would be able to contribute notes to the list during my recent 
trip to New Zealand there was never the time and I did not engage in as 
much collecting as I intended as the purpose of my trip was mainly 
personal. However, some aspects of the trip may be of general interest.

Our first arrival at Auckland airport immediately showed up some 
differences to my last visit in 1993. There was a much greater emphasis on 
checking baggage for potential agricultural threats. Even a butterfly or 
other insect-collecting net is classified as an animal trap and must be 
declared. One must ensure that there are no plant seeds or other remains in 
the net or a fine is possible. All collecting vials or other containers 
must also be declared as animal collecting equipment. None of these 
specifications were  as evident 9 years ago. One should  also ensure that 
all spare shoes/boots are thoroughly cleaned of all traces of dirt before 
being placed in baggage. I expected the plane to be sprayed with aerosol 
insecticides before we embarked, but this procedure appears to have been 
discontinued. I do not know if this is because all those decades of 
spraying in the past have now been deemed useless or have been superseded.

My intentional collecting was limited to some miscellaneous moths from 
motels (some mostly some geometrids and various micros). The common cicada 
(Amphisalta) was in much evidence being very abundant in forests and trees 
and the males chorus reverberating through the canopy. By the month's end 
the dying individuals were dropping to the ground. At my parents house they 
were being brought in by the cat who would play with them for a while 
before they were allowed to escape to the windows. In the backyard 
vegetation tree wetas (wingless crickets) were plentiful at night feeding 
on foliage, and I also observed two species of walking sticks, and some New 
Zealand slugs (these lack the domed top of the northern species). I also 
came across the European hedgehog on its nightly rounds. These animals have 
had a devastating impact on the native invertebrates, particularly the land 
snails. I did find time to collect a few porina moths (ghost moths - 
Hepialidae). These moths comprise several species that have found human 
developed pastures to be very suitable and some are major pasture pests.

Of butterflies there was not much around that I observed - only the 
European cabbage butterfly all over the place as usual, and one or more 
common blue lycaenids over grassy areas. I did see a New Zealand red 
admiral on a couple of occasions but they were flying by too fast and 
erratic for me to catch (or I'm getting too slow). I did not get the 
opportunity to check out forest glades, river beds or coastal areas where I 
may have still been able to see some of the copper colored lycaenids.

That was about the extent of my entomological explorations. Most of my time 
was taken up in travelling or organizing personal stuff. I did make a trip 
down to Franz Josef Glacier where I worked in the past for several summers. 
It is a place worth seeing for the landscapes alone although most people 
are focused on the glacier. True to form it rained more or less 
continuously for the three days we were there so not much opportunity to 
look at insects. For anyone interested in Alpine habitats there are some 
ridges easily accessible by a 4-5 hour tramp (hike) up a good trail at 
Franz Josef, and a more challenging climb at Fox Glacier to the south. I 
think many of the alpine spurs along the Southern Alps have been poorly 
investigated for Lepidoptera if at all. At the right time of the year 
alpine butterflies (satyrids) are evident.

John Grehan


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