College Receives Butterfly Garden Award

February 16, 2015 at 12:20 PM

This morning, the College welcomed Glenn Johnstone and Cheryl Krull, trustees from MBNZ (Moths & Butterflies of New Zealand) to award the College a plaque for their outstanding work in creating a successful butterfly habitat. The ‘Certified Butterfly Garden or Habitat Award’ is only granted to well-established gardens that have proven successful in attracting butterflies for at least two to three seasons. There are generally only one or two habitats a year that are granted an award and it recognises the College’s commitment and perseverance in creating an environment that encourages Lepidoptera*, in particular the monarch butterfly, to our horticultural area.

The Lepidoptera Club at the College has been a labour of love for English teacher, Mrs Xanthe Noble. The Butterfly Garden was first established three years ago with a five year plan to gain certification from the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust. Over the last three summers, and again this year, the gardens have been filled with the signature orange and black monarch butterflies and their green and gold chrysalises. The students have protected and released over 300 first generation butterflies that have enjoyed the protection the College gardens have given them.

Students have cleared areas of land in the horticultural area and planted over 300 swan plants. Each week building up to summer and over the summer months, students meet to plant advantageous flowers and plants, weed plots and nurture the swan plant seedlings – the favoured plant for monarch butterflies. They take huge pleasure in watching the chrysalises form and the subsequent butterflies emerge.

One of the group, Year 13 student, Matthew Swiatek, explained that the voracious appetite of the ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ in Eric Carle’s popular children’s book is founded on reality. The group have learnt that it is necessary to protect the young swan plants until they are strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the caterpillars!

Last year a group of practically minded students gathered together at lunchtimes and planned, designed and created seating for the gardens with materials kindly donated by Martin Baker Timber. Signs have been created by the students to provide an outdoor learning environment for visiting classes, including our Preschoolers, as well as a restful place to sit and enjoy the gardens.

Butterflies and moths are members of the insect order Lepidoptera, from the Greek meaning ‘scaly wings’.

Applying for Certification from MBNZ (Moths & Butterflies of New Zealand)

Before applying for certification, gardens or habitats need to meet a strict set of criteria:

  • They can be privately owned or public spaces, e.g. owned by council, land care groups, schools etc
  • They must host plants for at least three different Lepidoptera species
  • They must have nectar plants for all seasons of the year
  • The must have evergreen shelter trees of appropriate height on the southern side of the garden
  • There must be water for ‘puddling’
  • In public spaces, signage must be on display to explain the purpose of the plants for each species (hosts) and/or nectar during which season of the year (to inspire and encourage others to keep a continuity of planting)
  • Predators and parasites are to be discouraged by natural means
  • The gardens must have been established for two or three seasons with evidence to show on-going commitment and perseverance
  • Indoor habitats with tropical species do not qualify, as the idea is to boost numbers of NZ’s endemic and native species
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