Forest Ringlet and Honshu White Admiral

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    Out of interest! Any up to date news on how these two species are faring in New Zealand. I heard the Honshu White Admiral had established and was being spread sometimes with help from humans to other areas but I don’t hear much about the Forest Ringlet and how it is coping these days?

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    I get confused when we’re talking about “wasps”. There is the European wasp which is Vespula germanica, then there’s the European paper wasp which is Polistes dominula. Which one is doing the damage here, Mike?

    And what is meant by the “common wasp”?

    On another note – should be another topic here but I would like to make sure that you guys (Mike, Norm, Terry) are reading this… and perhaps others will contribute too. There is something very strange going on with monarchs this season – and possibly other insects too, so people say. See the survey HERE.

    From the discussion above about the forest ringlet, if someone gave us a large donation we could do research to eradicate or control the wasps that are affecting the forest ringlet. If it was the same wasp(s) that are affecting the monarch we could certainly do crowdfunding to raise funds for this cause as the monarch is such a crowd-pleaser. It would no doubt be good for both species… and more. Evidently Vespex is doing a good job of controlling Vespula spp – but nothing has so far been found to control Polistes spp of which there are now three in NZ.




    Hi Mike,

    That’s very interesting! No doubt control of the European Wasp will be difficult and possibly have little real effect on numbers. In the UK we find that both Vespula germanica and vespula vulgaris have good years and bad years so you will probably find yearly fluctuations as well in New Zealand. These wasps are killed on a massive scale over here by pest control but it makes little real impact overall. On naturally bad years for the wasps it may give the Forest Ringlets time to recoup and although they may appear absent they could be at much smaller densities. Both of these two wasps had a poor season last year in the UK. I would suggest that New Zealand appoint someone resident to head the conservation effort rather than flying in someone who can only cover this on a short term basis. I am sure New Zealand has very capable entomologists who could take this on. It’s always better when you know the country well, than as a newcomer. I suppose to get things moving you have to get widespread media coverage as with the Kakapo project. Once people get interested it’s easier to persuade government to fund research. This is a very special butterfly in very many ways so I wish you well in your efforts.


    mike reid

    Re Helms

    I revisited a colony of helms over the New Year period which in past years was thriving. Located at an altitude of 520 meters in native mixed beech forest I was dismayed to find that there was no longer any evidence of this butterfly. What I did find was an abundance of European wasps in the area. Something I had not witnessed in the previous 20 years. My concern is that with the common wasp still expanding its range (and remember it has been found in sub alpine areas) that similar what appear to be healthy thriving colony’s of this butterfly may be “picked off” one at a time.The fact that we have colony’s that appear to be thriving today should not mean that we let our guard down re the future of this very special Butterfly.
    Obviously more research is required. It should be started sooner rather than later.We do have a number of people in NZ who would gladly give up their time to assist with this and support a professional entomologist leading the research.And time to make this Butterfly an iconic species as Steve Wheatley suggested



    Thank you Norm, that was a very interesting report. I have friends in New Zealand who lived on Waiheke Island for a while about 10 years ago. As they were and are still not interested in butterflies it would have been pointless to ask them what was to be found on the island. The fact that Forest Ringlets are on Little Barrier Island is very good news as I know it is already a nature reserve and now Forest Ringlets have been discovered there it will be easier to include them in regular monitoring amongst the rare birds and other creatures on the island. I would be interested to hear of any sightings you make in your own forays and you can email me privately if you wish to keep this info low key to protect the areas from too much public attention. Personally I don’t think the Honshu White Admiral will have any major effect on controlling Japanese Honeysuckle, however, who in there right mind would complain about having such a beautiful butterfly as a new species in New Zealand?
    In the UK Cinnabar Moths are widespread but so is Ragwort so same result really!
    I heard the Large White was successfully eradicated before it could establish properly but that came as no surprise. In the UK 98% of larvae are destroyed by both the aforementioned parasites every year and it is far less common than the Small White.
    Last years Purple Emperor season over here was the best I can remember and at Chiddingfold Forest where I am a regular I even managed to get photo’s close up on my mobile phone, even touching the butterflies with the phone. The most comical day was when a lady was complaining that a Purple Emperor I had pointed out to her on the track had a blade of grass in front of it spoiling the shot. I asked her to step back, laid on the track, slowly moved my hand up to the grass stem and broke it off. I even just touched the butterflies wing to manage this. She could not believe her eyes but I explained that if you move slowly once a Purple Emperor is imbibing on the salts it becomes so preoccupied that you can get away with far more than you would normally. They will sometimes even land on you if you are sweating to get salts. Needless to say she went away happy having snapped many shots. I hope 2019 is a good Purple Emperor season as well.



    Hi Terry, the Honshu White Admiral has settled in to the Waikato area where it was first released, and although it does not appear to have spread out much, possibly owing to the vast amount of Japanese Honeysuckle in the area, it appears to have consolidated its stronghold. The species was released on Waiheke Island but failed to consolidate, and a second release was made. The Wellington area has been marked for a release, and others areas following.

    How successful they will prove to be as a control for the honeysuckle is yet to be established, when one looks back at the Cinnabar moth introduced into New Zealand in the early 1930’s as a biological control for ragwort, which is still prevalent here, or Pteromalus puparum and Apantales (now Cotesia) glomeratus wasps also introduced in the 1930’s to try and reduce the Cabbage White butterfly numbers. We still have large numbers of the white butterfly, but unfortunately both species of wasp have gone on to infect some of our endemic lepidoptera. However the authorities have said that biological controls may help rather than eradicate.

    The Forest Ringlet is still a subject of differing opinions, and while the Dept. of Conservation classifies the species as “serious decline”, in the past 18 months there have been numerous sightings in areas never before reported, Little Barrier Island being one. Volunteer workers on the Island had seen them over the previous few years without realising what they were, and only when someone recognised the species did it become news. As more and more people, and particularly trampers, become familiar with the appearance of the species, the more sightings are recorded. Steve Wheatley, the British conservationist who headed the recent update on research data of the Forest Ringlet, concluded in his Review document that there was insufficient statistical evidence to determine stability either way. My interest is still paramount, with Ruapehu forays being a learning experience, and now continuing in two areas with confirmed sightings within one and a half hours drive from my home.

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