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419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

More than just swan plants to keep butterflies fluttering by

Tūhura’s Tropical Forest at Otago Museum has a new mini-exhibition in place that discusses the native butterflies of Aotearoa New Zealand, and how we can aid in their recovery.

Butterflies are in decline around the world, and New Zealand is no exception to this trend. Many of our native butterfly populations are experiencing a reduction in numbers, largely due to a loss of host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on.

Otago Museum Science Communicator Sophie Adams explains, “Each butterfly species requires a specific plant type for caterpillars to be raised on, and some of these, such as ongaonga, or the native stinging nettle, are plants that home gardeners usually pull out. Butterflies play a pivotal role in our ecosystem as pollinators, and we need to start providing spaces in our cities and gardens for them.”

The display in Tūhura has examples of the plants that you can add to your garden to help increase butterfly populations, as well as interpretive panels about some of our more common butterfly species, and which plants they require. From the impressive monarch to the delicate common blue, our country’s butterflies are something that we, as New Zealanders, should be trying to conserve.

If you want to give a helping hand to these beautiful creatures, visit Tūhura and find out more about how to turn your backyard into a butterfly-friendly zone, or join the Big Backyard Butterfly Count.

From 10–30 November, citizen scientists can survey their area for butterflies to provide data on the status of butterfly populations. Just an hour of your time to take part in the butterfly count, and a couple of host plants in your garden, and you will be doing your part to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the flutter of colour on a summer day in Dunedin.

Information about the Butterfly Count is available at and identification sheets and survey forms will be available from the Museum’s Information and Tūhura desks from Saturday 9 November.