With an increasing interest in the little creatures that play such an important role in our backyard ecosystem, I’m also becoming more aware of how important – and diverse – our insects are. And I’m so excited to see a nationwide celebration of them this year! The Entomological Society of New Zealand has followed in the footsteps of Bird of the Year, with 24 insects to vying for the top spot in the New Zealand Bug of the Year 2023.
You get up to three votes, and I’ve settled on the kahukōwhai (yellow admiral butterfly) for one of my votes. The kahukōwhai piqued my interest in garden wildlife the year we moved in to our South Island home and introduced me to the range of New Zealand butterflies beyond the kahuku (monarch butterfly). I saw a little butterfly with yellow spots and, after a lot of searching online, found out that it is the kahukōwhai. It was attracted to a patch of stinging nettle that had grown up in an area of our garden that had been burned – after learning this I was really pleased I hadn’t got round to pulling it all out! I then learned about the kahukura (New Zealand red admiral butterfly), copper butterflies, the day-flying magpie moth, and our various ringlets. I’m now on a long-term mission to photograph as many of these as I can. 🦋
I think my second vote will go to the kahuwai (black tunnelweb spider). Spiders are becoming almost as close to my heart as butterflies are; I am currently enthralled by the many nurseryweb spiders in our garden, and when my husband showed me a massive vagrant spider in the garden the other day my reaction was to call it beautiful, when probably a few years ago I would’ve taken a slow step backward and hurrying away! And it gets bonus points for being the spider that Peter Jackson used to model Shelob after in the film interpretation of The Lord of the Rings. (I know I’ve got a photograph somewhere but my organisation skills have been lacking so here’s a photo of a nurseryweb spider instead).
My third and final vote goes to the chorus cicada – the soundtrack to summer. At least, it used to be, back in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Now I only hear the odd one, here and there, and I haven’t yet been able to spot any with my lens. I didn’t realise how much I would miss their song! So they get my last vote, and maybe they’ll let me capture a photograph.
Voting closes 13 February 2023