Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Zealand, part 2 - Insects

New Zealand is known more for its birds, but it is also home to a small yet interesting group of butterflies and many other insects.  Below is a list with short descriptions of the insect species I believe I saw during my two week trip.  I included Maori names for the butterflies and a few of the other insects, but if anyone reading this knows more about New Zealand insects and/or their Maori names, please correct me as needed.  Refer to "part 1" of this post for more detailed information about the locations I visited.
Display of New Zealand invertebrates at the Te Papa museum in Wellington
Butterflies (Maori: Pepe, also sometimes refers to moths)
Cabbage White Pieris rapae (Maori: pepe mā, "white butterfly")
These were EVERYWHERE!!!  I am not exaggerating when I say I have never seen so many cabbage whites in my life!  From rocky ocean beaches, to the harsh environments around the Rotorua-area hot springs and mud pools, all the way to the alpine scree slopes at the highest point you can drive to on the North Island, I always saw at least one cabbage white!  They were mostly seen in the agricultural areas of course, and there were clouds of them flying over fields of some kind of brassica crop, possibly rutabagas (aka "swedes" in New Zealand).  By the end of the trip, it became a game between my sister and I to try and find a location where we didn't see a cabbage white!
Cabbage White Pieris rapae (Queen Elizabeth Park, Masterton, New Zealand)
Monarch Danaus plexippus (Maori: kahuku)
I saw at least two or three a day, mostly in city gardens.  I saw five Monarchs at Hobbiton, they seemed to enjoy the well-kept gardens and watered lawns!  The primary larval host for Monarchs in New Zealand is swan plant (Gomphocarpus and Asclepias sp.).
Monarch Danaus plexippus (Queen Elizabeth Park, Masterton, New Zealand)
Monarch Danaus plexippus (Hobbiton movie set, near Matamata, New Zealand)
Monarch Danaus plexippus (Hobbiton movie set, near Matamata, New Zealand)
Red Admiral Vanessa gonerilla (Maori: kahu kura, "red cloak")
Endemic to New Zealand, these are a different species than what we call a Red Admiral (V. atalanta) here in North America.  They are similar, but one of the obvious differences is that the New Zealand Red Admiral has black-ringed blue eyespots in the red band on the dorsal hindwing.  I caught glimpses of at least three of these butterflies, and finally photographed one on a manuka tree south of Rotorua.  I thought it was another Yellow Admiral, which were flying around and landing higher up on the trunk, but after studying the photo I realized it is a Red Admiral.  I was unable to photograph the gorgeous dorsal of this species (although I did photograph a museum specimen, see below), but am excited to at least have gotten the almost-as-pretty ventral side.
"New Zealand" Red Admiral Vanessa gonerilla
(Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, New Zealand)
Yellow Admiral Vanessa itea (Maori: kahu kōwhai, "yellow cloak")
These are found in both Australia and New Zealand.  I observed several of these "hill-topping" (congregating at the tops of hills and mountains) on the hill above Wellington in the botanic gardens on the first full day of my trip.  I saw a few more in various locations, including three that were feeding on sap oozing from the small trunk of a manuka tree south of Rotorua.  Yellow Admirals seem to be just as skittish and hard to approach as most painted lady butterflies, and I was unable to get close enough to one to photograph it.
Forest Ringlet Dodonidia helmsii (left), New Zealand Red Admiral (center), Yellow Admiral (right)
Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus
It is believed these were introduced to New Zealand around 1965 by prevailing winds from Australia.  The larvae are known to feed on many legume species, but seem to have specifically taken to feeding on the flowers of gorse in New Zealand (gorse is similar to Scotch broom, and is just as annoying a weed in New Zealand as Scotch broom is in western Washington).  I saw two Long-tailed Blues amongst several Common Blues nectaring on wildflowers along the hike to Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Common Blue Zizina (otis) labradus (Maori: pepe ao uri, as near as I can interpret it means "dark smoke butterfly")
Some of my books list this as Z. otis labradus and others list it as a full species Z. labradus.  I can't find much information on it at the moment, so I'm not sure which it should be.  A common butterfly in Australia, it is believed to have been arriving in New Zealand on the winds of storms for centuries.  I usually only saw one or two at a time in a few locations, but there were large numbers along the edge between pastures and the ocean beach near the Cape Egmont Lighthouse.
Common Blue Zizina (otis) labradus
 
(Wellington Botanical Gardens, New Zealand)
Common Blue Zizina (otis) labradus (Wilkies Pools Loop Track, Mt Taranaki, New Zealand)
Common Blue Zizina (otis) labradus (beach near Cape Egmont Lighthouse, New Zealand)
Coastal Copper Lycaena salustius (Maori: pepe para riki, refers to all species of coppers, but I can't find a literal translation)
According to New Zealand lepidopterists Brian Patrick and Hamish Patrick in their book Butterflies of the South Pacific (where most of my info for this post is coming from), this copper should be recognized as a distinct species (often included with L. rauparahara), and is found in the coastal areas of the north island of New Zealand.  I believe this is the species of copper I saw while climbing the steps of the Cape Palliser lighthouse.  It was flying up the face of the cliff and pausing near flowers, so I was able to see flashes of the bright orange dorsal and yellow ventral, but wasn't able to get a very close look at it or photograph it.
Maui's Copper Lycaena edna (Maori: pepe para riki)
Again according to Brian Patrick and Hamish Patrick, this should be a full species, and was formerly included with L. salustius and L. rauparahara.  My other guide books simply call all of these the "Common Copper, Lycaena salustius complex".  Based on the geographical distribution, I believe this is the species of copper I saw and photographed at Mt. Ruapeho in the central part of the north island.
Maui's Copper Lycaena edna (Silica Rapids Track, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand)
Moths (Maori: Pūrerehua/Pepe)
I saw a few "little brown moths" in various locations around the north island, but didn't bother to photograph them for identification.  The few, more identifiable, moths I saw are as follows:
Fern Looper Ischalis sp. (possibly I. gallaria?)
I photographed this moth on a hike near Mt. Taranaki.  The larvae of these moths feed on various ferns, of which there were plenty in this forested area.
Fern Looper Ischalis sp., possibly I. gallaria(Wilkies Pools Loop Track, Mt Taranaki, New Zealand)
Kawakawa Looper Cleora scriptaria
I'm not positive of this identification as this seems to be a variable species, but the distinct spot on the dorsal forewing seems to be a distinguishing characteristic of this species.  I photographed this moth on the bank between a farmer's field and the ocean beach at the Cape Egmont Lighthouse.
Kawakawa Looper Cleora scriptaria (beach near Cape Egmont Lighthouse, New Zealand)
Orange Underwing Paranotoreas sp.
These are little day-flying moths with dark brown forewings and orange hindwings with thin black bands.  They never landed so I didn't get any photos, but I saw several of them along our hikes at Mt. Taranaki and at Mt. Ruapehu.  According to one of my guide books, P. zopyra is found around Mt. Taranaki and in the South Island, while P. brephosata is found in central North Island, south to the coast.  I don't know if there are more than these two species, but from these descriptions it sounds like I may have seen both species.
Porina Moth Wiseana sp., possibly copularis
There are seven species of Porina moths in New Zealand, all of which are highly variable and difficult to identify without close examination.  Their larvae burrow underground and come out at night to feed on grass.  I saw several of these resting on various items around the gas pumps at a gas station in Waiouru (central part of the island near Mt Ruapehu); I assume they had been attracted to the lights at night.  These moths are part of a group called "ghost moths", that also includes the endemic Pūriri Moth, a beautiful, large green moth, whose larvae burrow into and feed on the wood of Pūriri trees and can take up to five years to develop before reaching the adult stage.
Porina Moth Wiseana sp., possibly copularis
(gas station in Waiouru, New Zealand)
A few "ghost moths" in a display at the Te Papa museum in Wellington.
The color of these has faded, but the largest one is a Pūriri moth, which are usually bright green.
Beetles (Maori: Pāpapa)
brown scarab/chafer Odontria sp. or Costelytra sp.
I'm not sure of the correct ID for this beetle.  One option is Odontria xanthostica (Yellowspotted Chafer) but there are almost no photos online and it is only illustrated in one of my guidebooks. However, it is the only somewhat-spotted brown scarab beetle I could find for New Zealand.  The other option is a species of Costelytra (grass-grub beetles), but all the photos I can find of the few species in this genus in New Zealand are solid brown.  One complication is that this beetle was dead, which may have affected its color.  It was on a small, mossy clearing next to the Wilkies Pools Loop Track at Mt. Taranaki.
brown scarab/chafer, Odontria sp. or Costelytra sp.?
(Wilkies Pools Loop Track, Mt Taranaki, New Zealand)
Tanguru Chafer Stethaspis suturalis
This is a medium-sized scarab beetle, endemic to New Zealand.  They are apparently common in native forests, where the grubs feed on tree roots.  I found this beetle dead on the Tapu-Coroglen Road through Coromandel Forest Park, near where we stopped to photograph our first kauri tree.
Tanguru Chafer Stethaspis suturalis
(Tapu-Coroglen Rd, Coromandel Forest Park, New Zealand)
Tiger Beetle Cicindela (Neocicindela) sp. (Maori: papapa, the grub is known as hāpuku, kūī, or muremure)
There are approximately 16 species of tiger beetles in New Zealand.  The most common is C. tuberculata, which appears to be what I saw.  There were several in the sandy bank above the rocky shore near the Cape Egmont Lighthouse northwest of Taranaki.  I also saw several along the Silica Rapids Trail on the northern slope of Mt Ruapehu.  I photographed one on the gravel section of the Tapu-Coroglen Road, at the same place I found the Tanguru Chafer.
Tiger Beetle Cicindela (Neocicindela) sp. (beach near Cape Egmont Lighthouse, New Zealand)
Tiger Beetle Cicindela (Neocicindela) sp. (Tapu-Coroglen Rd, Coromandel Forest Park, New Zealand)
Tiger Beetle Cicindela (Neocicindela) sp. (Silica Rapids Track, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand)
Tiger Beetle Cicindela (Neocicindela) sp. (Silica Rapids Track, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand)
Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Cicadas
green cicadas Kikihia sp.
There were lots of cicadas in most wooded areas of the island, filling the air with their loud calls.  The only one I was able to photograph was this bright green individual in some grass next to the Silica Rapids Trail on the northern slope of Mt. Ruapehu.  It fits with the Subalpine Cicada Kikihia subalpina, but the species in this genus are very similar and I have limited experience identifying cicadas so I'm not certain of this ID.
Green cicada Kikihia sp. (Silica Rapids Track, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand)
Passion Vine Hopper Scolypopa australis
There were at least a couple dozen of these tiny plant hoppers on the side of the Cape Palliser lighthouse.  This species is native to Australia and was introduced to New Zealand in the 1870s.
Passion Vine Hopper Scolypopa australis (Cape Palliser Lighthouse, New Zealand)
Passion Vine Hopper Scolypopa australis (Cape Palliser Lighthouse, New Zealand)
North Island Grasshopper Sigaus piliferus
This is a threatened species only found in a few locations on the North Island. Because of its apparent rarity, I'm not sure if this is the correct species for the two I photographed, but they were along the Silica Rapids Trail at Mt. Ruapehu, which is right in the middle of S. piliferus habitat, and at a higher elevation than most other New Zealand grasshopper species are found.
North Island Grasshopper Sigaus piliferus (Silica Rapids Track, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand)
North Island Grasshopper Sigaus piliferus (Silica Rapids Track, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand)
Field Grasshopper Conocephalus semivittatus
These are also sometimes known as conehead katydids (a group which includes several species).  I saw one at the Cape Palliser Lighthouse.
Field Grasshopper Conocephalus semivittatus (Cape Palliser Lighthouse, New Zealand)

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