Swallowtail butterfly seen in Auckland

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  • #14569

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    John Early (entomologist at Auckland Museum) writes:

    On 15 January 2011 I saw an unusual butterfly fluttering around and feeding on Agapanthus flowers in an Epsom, Auckland, garden. It was clearly one of the swallowtail butterflies in the genus Papilio of which there are many species throughout the world but none in New Zealand?until now! I was able to see it briefly up close but not able to capture it to get an accurate identification. It was very similar in general colour and appearance to the one pictured here. Slightly smaller than a monarch and being much paler in colour (a nice creamy lemon) with contrasting oblique black bands across the forewings made it stand out from a distance. Its flight is more swift than the lazy lolloping flight of a monarch.

    What species of Papilio is it? Where did it come from? How did it get here? Is it established and breeding here? Is there only one or are there more? Is it only in Auckland or also in other parts of NZ as well? Your help is vital in answering these questions.

    https://www.monarch.org.nz/2011/01/18/swallowtail-seen-in-auckland/

    If you see a butterfly looking like this please contact me (jearly@aucklandmuseum.com 09 306 7042) with details of where and when you saw it. An actual specimen to confirm the record is needed, failing that a good photo.

    Please record any such sightings at http://www.mb.org.nz.

Viewing 16 replies - 1 through 16 (of 16 total)
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  • #25992

    Darren
    Participant

    Or Pteromalus puparum, which was deliberately introduced in 1933 to control the Cabbage White Butterfly, but also attacks our Admirals. Or the pigs, goats, deer, stoats, rabbits *pauses for breath* I hope Andrew Hollingsworth did get the roasting he deserved. But I was wondering if he had an escapee in 2001 whether its descendants might still be scraping by in Epsom? Probably no way of ever knowing.

    #25991

    John Early
    Participant

    I haven’t had any more sightings or heard from MAF Biosecurity. It’s not likely unless there is an established population. The individual I saw is either far away by now or has long since been digested by a mynah or starling.

    I did see that newspaper article about an Epsom man importing swallowtail eggs. I think he got such a roasting that he’s unlikely to do it again, but there may well be other butterfly afficionados who have a try.

    While it would be lovely to see something like Papilio machaon flying around our gardens and the countryside and dealing to all that wild fennel, we do have to be responsible about biosecurity. Often plants and animals that are completely inoffensive in their native range become rampant pests when translocated – look at gorse, a prized garden plant in the UK but an out of control weed that grows in dense thickets here. There’s no predicting how a new introduction will behave.

    #25984

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Angie – didn’t see your sighting come through? Did you report it in to http://www.mb.org.nz? Oh I do hope you did, it is such a constant source of informaton about our butterflies.

    Darren – haven’t heard any more but Ag are out there looking for it.

    #25981

    Darren
    Participant

    Has anything more come of this sighting?

    #25980

    Misty
    Participant

    Joining thread rather than starting afresh. Great photos in 21 January Hauraki Herald community newspaper (Thames) re 75 new species of butterflies imported by Butterfly and Orchid Garden at Tararu (north Thames)raising their different species to 250. They have also opened a caterpillar house so visitors can see the insects in different stages of lifecycle. Anything which raises interest in butterflies must be good. Can’t wait to go over the hill to see them. Misty

    #25915

    I think I saw something like: Catopsilia pomona (lemon migrant) around the 4-6 jan 2010

    #25914

    Terry
    Participant

    Hi Darren I’ll make up for what I said by stating “the UK winters are not as wet but a lot colder”, seriously I would rather go through one of your winters than one of ours! As for “Papilio machaon brittanicus” or even “Papilio machaon gorganus” the European subspecies that most British breeders have in captivity, they would thrive in NZ as I remember when I was in Papatoetoe back in 91-92 I saw Fennel growing all along a railway embankment as far as I could see from the bridge I was crossing at the time. I found fennel to be a superb foodplant and carrot. They would only be a pest if they were without the correct parasite to control them. It’s funny that you should mention them because when I saw the fennel in NZ the first thing I thought was pity there are no swallowtails here!
    It would be facinating to find out exactly what species John Early saw that day. The one to worry about is Papilio Demodocus. This species would be a big danger to your citrus growers if it found it’s way to NZ from Africa.

    #25912

    Darren
    Participant

    Here is a photo of a Papilio demoleus taken in 2005 at the Butterfly House in Auckland.

    http://www.treknature.com/gallery/Oceania/New_Zealand/photo30004.htm

    I also found this interesting. Epsom man Andrew Hollingsworth imported citrus swallowtail butterfly eggs in 2001.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/tony-stickley/news/article.cfm?a_id=143&objectid=3097291

    #25911

    John Early
    Participant

    Good point Angie. The few Pacific Papilios are all dark and not at all like this predominantly pale yellow one so I think we can eliminate them from the suspect list. Your observation of a large yellowish butterfly at Te Kaha is interesting. I wonder if it might be the same thing?? Best not speculate too wildly.

    I also remember vaguely a phone call I had last year from someone in Auckland who reckoned that he saw a butterfly with tails on the hind wing but without a specimen or photo there was little I could do. I forget what colour it was but do recall that we eliminated the long-tailed blue. Should have made notes!

    #25910

    Darren
    Participant

    I think something like Papilio machaon brittanicus would do very nicely here Terry, who are you calling too cold and wet? 😉

    #25909

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    I guess that leaves another possibility of the butterfly coming in through a Port in a shipping container in pupal form as Pieris brassica was thought to, or on an imported vehicle as Papilio xuthus was when discovered in Dunedin in 1996.
    Exciting news.

    #25907

    Have you looked at the pacific species? Somoa, tonga etc?

    I saw at new year a large yellowy butterfly in te kaha east coast, to quick for me to catch!

    Angie

    #25906

    John Early
    Participant

    Good to have your feedback Norm, Darren and Terry.

    An Aussie blow over was my first thought so I checked the ‘Butterflies of Australia'(Michael Braby)but there are no yellow Papilio species. I don’t think it is Protographium leosthenes which is much paler (white rather than yellow)and has a longer and sharper swordtail than what I recall from the Epsom specimen… and I’m also in the fortunate position of having one of the type specimens of this Aussie butterfly in the Auckland Museum collection here to check.

    I did wonder about a butterfly house escape – they certainly do happen (a few years ago a kid picked up a dead birdwing Troides rhabdamantus fairly close to the one near Auckland airport) so I checked all the species that MAF Biosecurity have listed as approved for import and it’s none of them. I suspect that it is one of the Northern Hemisphere species, possibly American, because that’s where all the yellow Papilios that look like this seem to come from. MAF Biosecurity are out patrolling the streets of Epsom this morning hoping to find one and there’s not much more that can be done until we have a dead specimen in our hands that we can identify and have validated. Then we will have a better steer as to host plants and where to look for caterpillars.

    There will be a press release going out later today so hopefully we can mobilise more pairs of eyes in the hunt.

    #25896

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Australia has a very similar species to the one pictured on the monarch photo’s section. Its habitat ranges down the eastern coast of Queensland to NSW. Common name is four-barred swordtail (Protographium leosthenes) and M. Brabys book Butterflies of Australia mentions the possibility of it being migratory, so a wind directed journey to NZ is not out of the question as other Australian species appear here from time to time.
    Another sighting of it or the capture of it would lead to its identification, so lets hope it may be seen again.

    #25894

    Darren
    Participant

    Aside from butterfly houses, where would the closest source of Papilio butterflies be to NZ? Could it be a blowover from Aus?

    #25887

    Terry
    Participant

    What you saw was probably Papilio demoleus or similar Papilio Species that is kept in some of the new walk through butterfly houses in NZ. Although they make a big deal out of good bio-security, escapes are bound to happen. Here in the UK where similar Bio Security is required, Many tropical species have escaped and been discovered outside by members of the public. However they never establish due to our cold winters. Monarchs escaped from a Butterfly house in London many years ago and found there way across the river Thames to Kew Gardens where they grew Milkweeds and laid eggs on the plants. It got in the press and made a nice story but of course come winter and then no more monarchs. I don’t think you need worry about Tropical Papilio species escaping, NZ winters even in the North Island are far too cold and wet for them to get through, but then again who knows? Some species can surprise us! Maybe we will now see the usual over the top response from the NZ Environmental department banning Butterfly Houses or making it more difficult to operate or get import licences. We get the same over the top responses unless of course it’s to help big business like Horticulture/ Agriculture who always get just what they want! Money Talks!!

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