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Red admiral a winner! – Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust

What is the best red admiral in the world?

Undoubtedly, it’s the NZ red admiral. There are red admirals on other continents, but lepidopterists agree that the NZ red admiral, Kahukura (Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla) is the most colourful, a NZ icon with its paua-coloured eyespots, and patches the same colour as the pohutukawa.

And when the votes from bug lovers all over the world were counted, Kahukura was declared to be the winner of The Entomological Society of New Zealand’s Bug of the Year Contest 2024. There were 20 candidates, but the red admiral had a distinct advantage over the other worthy entries.


Many people from Europe and Asia know of a butterfly called the ‘red admiral’, although they are probably not aware there are different species. But looking at the list of the candidates for the Bug of the Year, not many people would know what a psyllid or a springtail is, let alone want to vote for them.

This is the problem for NZ’s butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. There are ten times as many bug species in NZ than there are native plants – and over a hundred times more than there are native bird species!

Our bugs pollinate flowers and crops, control pests, maintain healthy soil and recycle nutrients. They are at the bottom of the food web, providing many a meal for larger species such as the kiwi. And much publicity, attention and protection has been given to the kiwi over the years.

The red admiral is as special, as unique to NZ as the kiwi. Of our butterfly and moth fauna, more than 90% is found only in NZ!

Our invertebrates generally miss out on publicity and funding.

That is why the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust works to engage with New Zealanders, to promote a thriving moth and butterfly population.

“We’re delighted that the red admiral has been chosen as a winner,” said Jacqui Knight, MNZM, on behalf of the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust. “It boosts our message, and as people help us by planting habitat and protecting the species we hope to see more red admirals flying.”


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