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New Zealand Admirals

Three Admirals Hybrid Admiral Red Admiral Yellow Admiral
Hybrid Admiral Red Admiral Yellow Admiral

The New Zealand Admirals

New Zealand has very few butterfly species probably due to its isolation. It does, however, sometimes get visitors blown across from Australia. One of these regular visitors is the Australian Yellow Admiral, Vanessa itea. It nows lives and breeds in the "Shaky Isles" as there is a plentiful supply of the common nettle, the food plant of its caterpillar. New Zealand has its own resident Red Admiral, Vanessa gonerilla, which feeds on a rather savage tree nettle.

In recent years, a few rather odd-looking butterflies have been found. They have similarities to both species and probably resulted from accidental hybridization. When I was a postgraduate student over there many years ago, I examined this possibility. I bred up large numbers of both species in my laboratory and found that they will readily hybridize if given the opportunity. The hybrids, which have aspects of both parents, are fertile and I was able to back-cross them to the parent species!

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