Winged visitors delight residents

SHARE

Residents are becoming all aflutter as some special visitors flock to the region.
Swarms of monarch butterflies have taken up residence in trees in the sculpture park at the Aigantighe Art Gallery and at Westend Park, attracting crowds of people eager to see the insects.
When The Courier visited the sculpture park last week, several people were mesmerised by the flying insects as they swarmed around the cabbage and fir trees.
Aigantighe Art Gallery manager Cara Fitzgerald said she noticed the butterflies beginning to visit the park in the April school holidays.
‘‘They are normally clustered in the Himalayan cedar tree in the sculpture garden every autumn.
‘‘Although we have noticed they have clustered in our cabbage trees, too. Unfortunately, I am not a lepidopterist, so I am not sure if this behaviour is unusual or normal. I haven’t kept a measured record of them so I am a bit vague on the nitty-gritty details.’’
She said the butterflies had been a highlight of the school holidays and a nice surprise for gallery visitors.
‘‘We normally inform our visitors about the butterflies in the garden.’’
Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust secretary Jacqui Knight said in North America each autumn more than 250 million monarchs left the United States and southern Canada and journeyed south for up to 5000km to their overwintering roosts in the mountain fir forests west of Mexico City.
‘‘In New Zealand we know even less about our monarchs and their overwintering behaviour.
‘‘We have known of monarchs overwintering in Timaru before but so far this year no-one has contributed to our database of sightings.’’
She said monarch butterflies were known as an ‘‘indicator species’’ as they were easy to see and also not afraid of humans.
‘‘They are considered today’s ‘canaries of the coal mines’.’’
Timaru District Council parks and recreation manager Bill Steans said he had not been made aware of the butterflies gathering at the gallery park.
‘‘Monarch butterflies do gather from time to time.
‘‘This is usually only in an isolated location such as a single tree. About five years ago I saw many of them on one tree in the Redruth area in late May.
‘‘This winter has been quite mild and so they have managed to survive, where in colder winters there may not be so many visible.’’
He said morning aphids (also called greenfly) were noticed in a garden last week, when last year they were not visible until September.
‘‘We usually have ponds freezing over but this hasn’t occurred this winter yet either.’’