Develop an admiral habitat – is it worth it?

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  • #61663


    I am coordinator for Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust in Hamilton City. We are in our eleventh year of operation in 10 hectares of a 30 hectare gully system.
    One of our focuses is to support the native and endemic species that are present so they do not become regionally extinct.
    With this in mind we have been looking at how to support the admiral butterflies. We have the occasional yellow and very occasional red.
    I have had an area at home for a number of years so I can observe their behaviour however the parasitic wasp Pteromalus puparum decimates their breeding attempts. This past autumn I collected 20 odd chrysalis and brought them inside out of the cold weather but all were parasitise.
    In a section of the gully council contractors are clearing an area that I feel would be ideal to fence off with deer netting to grow a grove of Urtica ferox. I have written up a proposal to present to council but with my breeding attempt at home, basically failing because of Pteromalus puparum I am wondering whether this project has any chance of success? Would the larger area of Urtica mean that the wasp would not get all the caterpillars and leave a reasonable number to hatch?
    I would appreciate feedback on this proposal before I present it to the council. Thanks.
    Rex Bushell

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  • #61671


    I had success with admirals in a large caterpillar castle one year. I used the Urtica species found on farms … way easier to live with and easier to grow than Ferox lol.
    Since then I’ve had those nettles growing in my garden, they self seed and grow easily. I’ve had quite a few Admirals flying around (red and yellow) so something must be working for them. the Admirals seem better adapted to Wellington conditions than the Monarchs.



    Rex – our caterpillar castles are here:

    Caterpillar Castles

    And the U. australis seeds are here. Like Norm, I highly recommend this plant with its lovely big leaves.




    Hi Rex, great to hear that you are focusing on a program to assist the native species of butterfly. Unfortunately there are several species of parasitoids in New Zealand that hammer our butterflies, many are introduced, either self introduced or introduced as biological controls,
    as P. puparum was to help combat the Cabbage white butterfly. Gathering pupae, as you have found, are often infected and introduces the parasitoids into a breeding environment. The best system is to collect late instar larvae and place them into a parasitoid proof cage or butterfly enclosure with hostplants to complete their cycle. Once emerged the butterflies can be released back to the area, or bred in a butterfly house.
    The MBNZT sells ‘castles’ or enclosures which are ideal for the containment stage, and late instar larvae on a potted nettle plant of even cut leaves in water will pupate readily.
    Also look at other species of native nettles, both the red admiral and yellow admiral butterflies will thrive on any Urtica species.
    Growing larger areas of nettles will also increase the larvae population, but also increase the parasitoid problem.
    The pupae can withstand freezing conditions, so are not at threat from hard frosts.
    All the best for the future, don’t hesitate to ask more questions.



    Hello Rex

    Great to hear from you! This is an exciting proposal. I am hoping that Norm Twigge and Terry Smithers in particular will comment. Terry has produced a very interesting paper, which is on this website (link below) about raising yellow admirals in a butterfly house so may have some ideas there.

    Fortunately I haven’t been bothered by P. puparum in my garden so won’t offer advice. Except that the more you plant, the more likely you are to attract both admirals and their predators/parasites. I would suggest that in the gulley you don’t plant the nettles close to one another but space them out with other shrubs/trees.

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