The Forest Ringlet Project

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    Topic
  • #48729

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hi folks

    Did you know that the forest ringlet butterfly is reaching dangerously low numbers and we need your help to save this species from disappearing forever!

    This rare butterfly is only found in certain areas of New Zealand and is currently facing extinction. This summer we are bringing a conservation specialist from Butterfly Conservation in the UK to carry out research and help save the endangered forest ringlet butterfly.

    Head to our Givealittle page to support the Forest Ringlet Project.

    https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/forestringletbutterfly

    If you can’t help financially, you can also help by sharing the message and spreading the word.

Viewing 8 replies - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
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  • #48883

    Terry
    Participant

    Thanks for that answer Zac!
    What you say makes perfect sense. It is great to know you have taken a personal interest in this species. It’s similar over here in the UK where the Purple Emperor has a dedicated following. As New Zealand has a far smaller human population than the UK it is obviously harder to find enough like minded people who take a particular interest in the Forest Ringlet. Even here the Purple Emperor fanatics are small in number so percentage of population wise it must be even more difficult in New Zealand to whip up enough interest. Norm taught me a lot about Forest Ringlets a few years ago and sent me a few photo’s he uploaded of Forest Ringlet territory and food-plants which was very interesting. The Forests in New Zealand are very different to those in the UK.
    It’s interesting that this species has been seen on Great Barrier Island.
    I understand your reluctance to share the locations where you have seen Forest Ringlets so I won’t push you on that subject. It’s just nice to know that they are still out there and not in danger of extinction any time soon.
    The weather has a huge effect on Butterfly numbers in the UK. This year has been appallingly bad for many species due to an over warm start to winter followed by prolonged cold spring weather. Numbers of Purple Emperor were very low and Dark Green Fritillary were also down on the sites I monitor, along with Silver Washed Fritillary. There is a Saw mill on one of my walking routes that in most years has very high numbers of SWF flying around it but this year I saw only one or two it was the worst year I can remember for a long time. Yet further east, in another county where a fellow Lepidopterist lives, he saw fair numbers. The weather had been colder there during the first part of winter which probably helped.

    #48882

    Zac
    Participant

    Hi terry,

    i also have Gibb’s book, and he himself mentioned that it’s a very localised species, and that can be a good reason why is considered rare. Although it’s not commonly sighted, it definitely is a species you have to be in the right spot at just the right time. Populations can vary, and I’ve been following this species ever since 2010 when I stumbled across a few of them while hiking in Ranges near my home. They are a beauty to behold and they are not very swift fliers, when not disturbed they have a delicate flight just like their appearance. ive been back there to the same spot even at the same time as the previous year and missed them completely. In this location they appear when the kamahi flowers are in bloom, a favourite food source. Otherwise if they can’t source food easily they normally feed of the sap of trees. I won’t reveal certain places to the public as it’s important that they are left to it, but the places they inhabit is usually always deep forest. It is true they only fly when the sun is out and as soon as a cloud passes by they settle until its sunny again. I guess to answer your question, it’s a hard species to locate, each population might have a different flight period during the summer months. I’ve noticed this in different places I have looked for them. also people don’t know much about them because of their short season, the butterfly is on the wing for 2-3 weeks and if not looked for precisely it’s easily missed.

    So technically, I don’t see the forest ringlet getting to the point of extinction. They have retreated to higher areas, but this is probably what will save it. but like I was saying previously that summer of 2015 there were sightings up and down the country, they were certainly in number. Even places that were not previously thought possible.. Even great barrier island off the coast of NZ. They just turn up each year unexpected and numbers can change.

    It’s a species I’ve had a passion for, like many others on here. and it would be nice to see their numbers be increased. so good on nzbt. It all contributes to a better population status if this works out.

    Zac

    #48881

    Terry
    Participant

    Hi Zac!
    That is some of the most detailed information I have read about the Forest Ringlet. It’s obvious you are taking a deep interest in this species. Can I ask you a question? The locations you know about, are they well known to interested parties or does this species live in forest areas where it is not officially known and people who have the capacity to recognise it, and or, tend to find it by accident such as being in the right place at the right time. Gibbs says in his book that the flight times show a variation from area to area and island to Island. Do you think there could be small colonies in forests nobody has bothered looking for Forest Ringlets in, therefore adding to the belief it is rarer than it actually is? Even in the UK where we are grossly overpopulated and very little of the countryside is not developed in some way, small colonies of sedentary species survive for many years unknown and unnoticed by the general public until the bulldozers move in and the houses and factories make sure of a permanent extinction. I know of one site near me that is about to be destroyed with 9000 houses, schools and factories that is teaming with Butterflies and has a small colony of Common Blue (Not common now but was when named in olden times) The environmental impact scheme (don’t laugh) done by the government does not even take Butterflies in to serious consideration so nobody knows they exist.
    Maybe as you say the Forest Ringlet could be quite common at times where it exists, but maybe not enough people recognise it when they see it so it does not get reported.
    I am very interested in anything else you may have to share about this species, it’s a fascinating subject.

    #48879

    Zac
    Participant

    I agree and its a good thing NZBT are doing something about it will ensure numbers increase. However, they are not really in huge decline as information would suggest. Yes they have disappeared from certain parts of the country. But like some of our alpine species the numbers we see each year change year to year. Like the E. Butleri from the South Island in one locality it can be seen one favourable year, the following year it’s nowhere to be seen. Our endemic satyridae can have 1-3 year life cycles due to environmental factors.
    The forest ringlet for example, in summer of 2015 there were many sighted/reported. In one location of that year I counted close to 40 sightings over a period of 2 days in that single location. 40 sightings don’t mean 40 indivial specimens, but during that visit I encountered up to 4-6 individuals feeding from beech tree sap. And it was clear in many locations although scattered they have steady populations.
    As Norm related there seems to be a 2 year lifecycle in high altitude areas. And 1 year lifecycle in lowland areas. But personally I have noticed 1 year there is a population boost and then the following year not as many. If the weather is favourable it tends to peak. And I have found this to be true after visiting a location a number of times

    The forest ringlet is rarely encounter yes, but where found in its locality its a fairly common sight. The key is being in the right place at exactly the right time of year and you will see them in number. It’s also interesting to know that wasps are not entirely the threat here to them, it’s actually a parasite fly that lays it’s eggs on the host foodplants of the forest ringlet, and the forest ringlet ingests the egg by browsing on the leaf before they complete their development. Most alpine populations won’t get wasps due to the cold environment but the fly is present. There are recorded other species of wasps etc that prey on them, including a tiny micro wasp the lays it’s eggs inside the egg of a forest ringlet.

    Zac

    #48868

    Terry
    Participant

    I’m pleased to hear that he is volunteering. I know I sound a bit cynical at times but there are plenty of people straight out of University who think they know a lot but have no field experience just book knowledge and that is not enough. Every time I meet one and they start telling me what they have learned much of it is nonsense. Seeing as he is working with Norm (I don’t know Peter) he will get accurate knowledge as I know Norm has been studying Forest Ringlets for quite some time. It’s a shame DOC don’t appear to be interested in the project. I have been following the Kakapo recovery project over the years and they have been very successful it’s a shame insects don’t receive the same interest from the public as a large colourful green Parrot. That said the Kakapo is a real beauty. The Kea on the other hand is attractive through it’s amazing fun character.

    #48867

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hi Terry – he’s working as a volunteer for us, which is very kind of him. We hope that he will add to the knowledge that the likes of Norm, Brian Patrick, Peter Maddison and George Gibbs (and others) have already put together. Perhaps with your wide range of Lepidoptera over in Britain he will be able to offer a new slant on things.

    Sadly, DOC or the government haven’t offered us any support – apart from good wishes from one DOC senior staff member. Steve Wheatley will be working alongside Peter and Norm, and also visit with George and Brian so will collate all of their knowledge as well as work in the field.

    You can read more about Steve and the project in this spring magazine.

    Jacqui

    #48866

    Terry
    Participant

    So what is the name of this “specialist”? And how much is he/she charging you for this “research”? I would have thought the Department of Conservation in New Zealand would have someone who could do this research plus they know the local environment better. It would also be at the taxpayers cost. I met one of these Butterfly Conservation “so called” experts this year in the field and he was quite frankly “wrong” on many of his assumptions.

    #48863

    vivhig
    Participant

    We certainly can’t let beauty become extinct! Not enough of it in any form around.

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