Arrival date of Monarchs in New Zealand?

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    I am trying to find out when the first sightings were recorded of Monarch butterflies in New Zealand. Anyone got any info? and book references would also be good.


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    What I’ve heard is that Monarchs arrived here about the same time as they did in Hawaii. And that they were unable to breed here until some years later, when the first milkweed arrived (ex Africa). I can’t remember the date – although I think it was late 1800’s.

    The fact that botanists now have identified the swan plant and the two other similar species as being from Africa makes me suspect that the plants got here as filling in pillows, mattresses etc, and Myron Zalucki seemed to agree with athat theory.

    Yes, Norm, wouldn’t it be fun to know.



    The spread of the Monarch butterfly across the Pacific ocean from its home in America
    had to be preceeded by the spread of the milkweed plant for them to survive and establish themselves. It is quite conceivable that the early Maori saw the Australian migrant Danaus chrysippus, which looks similar to the Monarch.
    I would also agree with Robert on the above explanation as a possibility. One thing is for sure, it is a question we will probably never know the full answer to.




    The quote “The fact that the Maori had a traditional name for the insect, kãkâhû, certainly suggests it was not then a recent arrival.” is debatable as George Gibbs states in his 1981 book. I agree with George that these ‘sightings’ where probably Red Admirals & that Europeans mis-understood the name ‘Kakahu’ & assigned it to Monarchs & called the Red Admiral ‘Kahu Kura (Red Cloak)’ to make it match the Yellow Admirals ‘Kahu Kowhai (Yellow Cloak)’.

    Personnally I think Monarch’s came by accident (or on purpose) on Swan Plant & Milkweed. However the ocean currents do agree with the ‘westward spread’ accross the Pacific – But it still doesn’t explain Austrailia getting the Monarch. Hence I thing introduction happened by accident or more likely on purpose.




    Fencible is great – haven’t been there for years, so I expect it’s even better now.
    I used to live out that way.
    Admirals and Monarchs would a great addition.
    The work you do is wonderful.


    Currently trying to work with the Howick Historical Village re nettle and admirals. They are also keen on Monarchs if I could show they could have been here during the 1840-1880’s. Have sent on this document for them to read.

    If you have not been its an amazing place!

    Thanks Jacqui



    Hi Ange,

    I think the answer is: 1840/41 – Reinga, Wairoa River, Hawkes Bay. (But having looked at various books, there are other references to other (later) dates by other authors. However, Prof Myron Zalucki documented the arrival of Monarchs across the Pacific and gave a presentation on this at the conference last year. Together with Anthony R Clarke, he wrote a paper “Monarchs Across the Pacific: the Columbus hypothesis revisted”.


    During the mid- to second half of the
    19th century, the monarch spread from North America
    throughout the Pacific, colonizing both small islands
    and larger landmasses, such as Australia and New
    Zealand. This rapid spread of the insect invoked the
    interest of entomologists at the time (Semper, 1873;
    Distant, 1877; Walker, 1886, 1914) and has been central
    to the recent debates (Malcolm & Brower, 1987;
    Vane-Wright, 1987, 1993; Brower, 1995).


    The New Zealand records of monarchs
    are problematic and have tended to be downplayed,
    perhaps in part because they do not fit with
    ‘conventional wisdom’ of how the butterflies may have
    spread and because the published records occur so
    long after the reputed sightings. Sturm’s (1878) firsthand
    records were anywhere from 38 to 10 years prior
    to his writing. Nevertheless, several of Sturm’s earlier
    sightings had apparently resulted in pinned specimens
    being sent to international colleagues. Both of
    the early New Zealand writers (Fereday, 1874; Sturm,
    1878) considered the butterfly endemic to their
    Islands, with Fereday referring to older Maoris who
    were insistent that the butterfly was present before
    Europeans arrived. The fact that the Maori had a traditional
    name for the insect, kãkâhû, certainly suggests
    it was not then a recent arrival. It is possible
    that the monarch had arrived in New Zealand some
    time during prehistory, although the pathway is certainly
    not clear. Even if the monarch was a more
    recent arrival, there is no obvious reason from the contemporary
    literature to dismiss these reports as
    invalid records.


    Monarchs appear to have been established on a number
    of island groups at discrete intervals, rather than
    having moved in a wave-like front from east to west.
    Introductions may well have been to a single location
    initially with subsequent rapid spread to surrounding
    islands in random directions (Fig. 1). The initial epicentres
    and dates appear to be: Hawkes Bay, New
    Zealand (1840s), Tonga (1863) and Vanuatu/New Caledonia
    (1868). Early introductions to the Hawaiian
    Islands (1840s) and Ponape on the Caroline Islands
    (1857) appear not to have spread (Fig. 1).


    I think if you search on Zalucki on our website too, you will find slides – or maybe the whole presentation – that Myron gave at our conference last year.

    I have copies of this paper if anyone is interested.


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