Hundreds of Japan’s white admiral butterflies are emerging in New Zealand for the first time as they help fight an invasive vine.
Landcare research scientists are sending an army of caterpillars to the battlefield, after being reared as a biological control agent for the widespread vine known as the Japanese honeysuckle.
Several councils around New Zealand are battling with the Japanese honeysuckle vine, as it spreads across the country’s native bush, roadsides, and wastelands.
The honeysuckle was first introduced as an ornamental hedging plant from Japan in 1872, but by 1926 it was reported to have started spreading and growing in the wild.
In 2013, scientists got approval to release the butterflies in New Zealand, and a year later they attempted to use the Japanese butterfly’s caterpillars as a biological control method for the weed, releasing a small number at Karangahake Gorge in Waikato.
Scientists will continue breeding the butterflies and expect it will take about five to 10 years to see a wide-scale impact. NZN