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Forest ringlet

Dodonidia helmsii

Pepepe pōuri

Photo by Melissa Hutchison

This is a strong-flying butterfly; widespread in both North and South Islands but seldom seen. It is found in low to moderate altitude forests up to the tree-line, especially around open forest clearings where the bush tussock foodplants grow (Gahnia and Chionochloa).

The eggs are laid singly on leaf blades where they are readily visible due to their immense size (for a butterfly - 1.4 mm). They hatch in about 3 weeks.

The first stage larva has a round black head but moults to a green forked head at the second stage, which is characteristic of the remaining stages.

Lowland populations have an annual life cycle with overwintering taking place during second or third stage of development, by sheltering within the base of the tussock plant. They are dormant from May to September, completing growth by the end of December. At higher altitudes the life cycle may take two years.

The pupa is green with a brown margin along the wing cases, suspended from its tail.

This butterfly's future seems to be threatened but the reason for decline has not been confirmed. Extensive populations near urban areas of Auckland and Wellington have disappeared during the last 20 years despite the presence of vigorous populations of foodplants. Predaceous insects are suspected, in particular the European Vespula wasps. Wild populations in more remote areas of both North and South islands are unaffected.

Read about our Forest Ringlet Project.

Biostatus
Endemic
Host Plant
Gahnia and Chionochloa spp.
Egg
Laid singly on leaf blades where they are readily visible due to their immense size (for a butterfly - 1.4 mm). 3 weeks
Larva
The first stage larva has a round black head but moults to a green forked head at the second stage, which is characteristic of the remaining stages.
Pupa
Green with a brown margin along the wing cases, suspended from its tail.
Adult/Imago
From above the butterfly has dark brown and orange stripes, with eyespots. Underwing hindwing white and dark rown stripes, with tip of forewing also white with dark brown stripe.
Wingspan
40-64 mm
Overwinters
Takes place during second or third stage of development, by sheltering within the base of the tussock plant.
Range
Low to moderate altitude forests up to the tree-line, especially around open forest clearings where the bush tussock foodplants grow (Gahnia and Chionochloa).

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