Maori names for lepidoptera

  • This topic is empty.
  • Creator
  • #14346


    Some time ago I photocopied this from DISCOVER NZ BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS which I found in the Huntly library.

    "Just as scientists classify moths and butterflies together as Lepidoptera, so do Polynesians. In Maori, moths and butterflies are called purerehua (e.g. Tuhoe dialect) and pepe (e.g. Tai Tokerau dialects of Northland).

    The pupa is most commonly called tungoungo, "to nod". This describes the wriggling action of the abdomen as it bends back and forth. Children are told by their grandparents to hold the pupa gently between the thumb and forefinger and ask it questions, such as, "Am I a good girl?". Then the pupa will wriggle its abdomen up ("Yes") or down ("No").

    Other names for the pupa are hautohu (pointing in the direction of the wind), pikotu (bending down and up), and tuwhenua (standing upright in the soil) as some pupa do just before the skin splits and the moth emerges. In Northland, mokorori/makorori is a general name for caterpillars and grubs."

    According to the page I photocopied, this piece was contributed by Wendy Pond. Unfortunately, I haven’t noted the author of the book, but it was old and reference only… and a quick Google didn’t show me any information about the book.

Viewing 2 replies - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • Author
  • #24735


    That is so interesting Jacqui. You do find some gems. And just slightly off the topic “A butterfly, Rauparaha’s Copper (Lycaena rauparaha), was named in his honour. It lives in coastal regions is a golden coppery colour and has a wing span of between 25 and 30 mm. One explanation for the name is that the coastal strip along which the M?ori warrior moved so often between Taranaki and Wellington was the butterfly’s most heavily populated habitat.”



    Very interesting. Andrew Crowe (2002) has a slightly different point of view in his book “Which New Zealand Insect?”

    “The name pepe (or pepepe) means “to flutter” and is traditionally reserved in many Polynesian languages (including some dialects of Maori) for butterflies, while others use the term more widely to include moths and even huhu beetles.

    The name purerehua (also purerehu, purehurehu, or purehua) means ‘flickering, dim or dark’ and is more widely used for moths and similar-looking caddisflies. Yet some Maori tribes (also the natives of Hawai’i and Vanuatu) traditionally used this term to indicate butterflies. Such variations reflect the close relationship of caddisflies, moths and butterflies, as recognised by modern scientists.

    When it comes to caterpillars, the number of Maori names is unprecedented among Polynesian languages, where caterpillars in general (and those beetle grubs with legs) are widely known as nuhe or anuhe (Maori:anuhe). Including tribal variations, over 40 Maori caterpillar names have been recorded, many of them describing the ecological behaviour of a group, yet often mistakenly applied in dictionaries to a specific insect.”
    (Crowe, 2002, p.9)

Viewing 2 replies - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.