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Native Red Admiral butterfly or Kahukura (which translates to red cloak).
Photo by Rod Morris

Red Admiral butterflies and origami

Rod Morris, Wild Dunedin —

Red Admirals are without doubt one of our prettiest native butterflies, and they are still very common around Dunedin. Learn a little more about this welcome garden visitor from naturalist Rod Morris. Then take up the challenge to do some Red Admiral origami thanks to Dunedin game developer Runaway Play.

With a wingspan of nearly 60mm across, our native Red Admirals are big enough, and strong enough to 'shake off’ attacks from German and common wasps which sadly attack so many of our native insects in autumn.

At Earthlore roughly 5 acres has been planted for insect conservation, particularly for red admiral and copper butterflies.  — Image by: Earthlore Wildlife Gardens

Unlike many of our smaller butterflies which die out over winter, Red Admirals overwinter by going torpid in dry sheltered sites such as in bark crevices or dry cabbage tree skirts, and may even reappear on mild sunny days, even in the depths of winter.

You can attract adult butterflies to your garden by planting nectar producing flowers such as Hebes - especially Koromiko Hebe salicifolia, and Buddleia (Please note Buddleia davidii is very invasive and is now banned from sale, but there are several safe new hybrid varieties now in plant nurseries, such as yellow Buddleia weyeriana ‘Sungold’, blue Buddleia fallowiana ‘Lochinch’, or white Buddleia fallowiana ‘Alba’.)

The caterpillars of the Red Admiral feed on stinging nettle - they particularly like the large native tree nettle Ongaonga Urtica ferox, which is a very dangerous plant around children. 

Ongaonga Urtica ferox - our native nettle can grow into a large shrub. It prefers to grow under trees. Clear it from pathways to avoid its toxic sting but leave it elsewhere to encourage red admirals.  — Image by: Jeannie Hayden

However Red Admirals (and Yellow Admirals) will lay their eggs on the common garden nettle Urtica dioica, and although gardeners regard it as a weed, it may be well worth growing a few of these nettles in an unused corner of the garden to help attract these beautiful native butterflies in summer.

Common garden nettle Urtica dioica — Image by: Jeannie Hayden

Missed out seeing them in the garden?  

Well you can make one with this origami challenge.

Make your own Kahukura butterfly thanks to Runaway Play - a Dunedin game developer and distributor who want to bring the magic of the natural world into the gaming world. — Image by: Runaway Play

A pdf of the origami template is attached below.  All you need is a colour printer at home and patience!

Runaway Play is an independent game developer and publisher based in Dunedin New Zealand. They build beautiful games inspired by the natural world. 

Share photos of your creations with us using @WildDunedin and @RunawayPlay on Facebook and Twitter.