The overwintering stage in New Zealand starts in April or May. This is when swarms of Monarch butterflies form regularly to overwinter at places around the country.
On warm sunny winter days, when temperatures are over 16 degrees, you get to see a few monarchs gliding around looking for nectar nearby. Although, most of the time, during winter, Monarchs will hang in a peaceful dormant position, totally still and peaceful.
When the Monarchs form in big clusters they are known to be in “Diapause” (resting, hanging for the winter). Many of these butterflies survive the whole winter as a dormant group, only to revive and mate in the following spring (around September/October) when the warmer weather sets in.
These Monarchs that overwinter in the trees live for about 7 – 9 months. That’s if they survive the strong frosts, storms, hail and wind conditions through the harsh winters. Whereas the Monarch butterflies that emerge during the summer months live approximately 6 to 8 weeks, once they have mated and laid all their eggs, and their job is done for the insect kingdom.
Temperature and food supply have a big influence on the size of the next summer’s monarch population. A few cold, bitter winters and heavy rain may result in a drastic reduction in the number of Monarchs and it will take a few years for numbers to re-establish again. In saying that, I’ve also witnessed hundreds of Monarchs clinging in the trees without letting go while it’s been blowing a gale! They are such small and fragile creatures who are really resilient to the winds and strong enough to cling on to the branch with their feet swinging side to side. This is why they choose to form clusters in trees in parks that have shelter from the brunt of the winds – Monarchs are are so clever!
In Auckland it’s quite common to get caterpillars all year around, although numbers are hugely reduced and far fewer sightings of monarchs occur in the winter. Whereas in the South Island we’re only able to see Monarchs in winter at the overwintering sites due to difference in temperatures. Visiting these parks with your children and family is amazing, so take a picnic and, of course, your camera. Relax while enjoying the experience above you in the trees.
Woodham park is great for kids as the Monarchs are quite low down and my toddler even got to spot them, then quickly enjoyed kicking and crunching the leaves on the ground.
The colours in the parks are so vibrant at this time of year; I’m beginning to enjoy autumn more and more each year. At first, you may not spot the clusters as sometimes a bunch of Monarchs will look like a branch of dead leaves just hanging in the tree. Be patient and have a good look around, also try to go on a sunny day and you’ll see them gliding around you looking for nectar in the park.
Luckily, the people of Christchurch are spoilt and have many places to spot the large clusters of monarch butterflies. I’m fortunate to have at least 6 overwintering parks within 10 minutes drive of my house to visit regularly.
Below I’ve put together an updated list for autumn 2018. I can confirm these are current overwintering spots in NZ. Please share and tell your friends, pre-schools, and family. By sharing and having easy access to this list, we can all experience this magnificent joy, and witness nature at its best. It’s absolutely amazing!
Even if you only like butterflies a little, you’ll surely love them even more once you have seen them in huge numbers. The magical thing that I don’t understand, which astounds me, is how these Monarchs know where to go during the winter to a place where their ancestors hung the year before, without ever having been there themselves.
Anyone who can confirm new sightings anywhere around the country that is not on the list below let us know, as we believe there are so many other sites that we don’t know about as there is not enough people looking. Always look on the side of the tree that is north facing as Monarch butterflies love to bask in the sunshine all day for heat and energy. please can you email us as firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to the list – many thanks!!
If you’d like more information regarding overwintering in New Zealand and in-depth information about the magnificent migration of millions of Monarch butterflies that travel over 2,800 miles, journeying from the northwestern United States and southern Canada to the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City in the mountains. Plus my book is an excellent guide for raising healthy Monarch Butterflies check out my book & purchase my book here.
- Burnside Park, Burnside in the pine trees just left of the tennis courts from Memorial Ave. (Few hundred April 2019)
- Edmonds Factory Garden – Waltham. Entrance via Ferry Rd, around the weeping Willow tree towards the playground and surrounding trees. Few Monarchs as of April 2019
- St James’ Park Papanui – above the wooden blue slide, high up in the Elm tree. Good spot 2019.
- Risingholme Park, Opawa As you go in via Cholmondeley Ave, follow the path round to your left and come across a small bridge the monarchs will be on the right in the evergreen trees . Good Spot 2019
- Opawa School (In the trees above the adventure playground – private property) Few Monarch as of April 2019
- Abberley Park, St Albans – walk along the main entrance in Abberley Crescent and continue past the building on your left. Take the right hand fork in the path and look into the tops of the trees on the left side. Look for the tallest tree (one with the metal ban) 3/4 up on the right they are clustered. Good spot 2019.
- Pioneer Recreation Centre – the tall trees next to the river near the playground. Few Monarch as of April 2019
- Redwood Park – behind the tennis courts above the path APRIL – MAY ONLY. (Hardly any as of April 2019)
- Woodham Park – Linwood near the playground on tree. Look for the tree with the plaque on it that reads Ginko “Maidenhair” Tree. Also in the surrounding trees, including Macrocarpa tree next to it. Wonderful there are heaps April 2019
- Bishopdale Park – New location behind the Scouts Den (green building) park in the library car park. Very cool to see so many Monarchs that were in the grass fly around me as I walked towards the tree. 2019
- Larch Reserve, Casebrook – as you enter from Larch place they are in the large tree towards the back entrance of the park. 10 metres away from the playground. APRIL – MAY ONLY (Hardly any as of April 2019)
- Rawhiti Domain, North Brighton, in the Pine and Macrocarpa trees so they are not easily visible as they slot up into the needles and hide up high. Best to go on a sunny day when some maybe flying around.
- Denton Park – Hornby – back corner near the water tank in the gum trees. Few Monarch as of April 2019
- Victoria Park, Rangiora look for the conifer/pine tree against Queens Street. Very few as of April 2019
- Lillybrook Reserve, Rangiora Found in the pine trees and the two large Willow trees opposite the park. Very few as of April 2019
- Temuka Recreation Reserve – Temuka.
- Aigantighe Art Gallery – Timaru in the Himalayan cedar tree. In large numbers May 2019.
- Ashbury Park – Timaru in the broadleaf tree.
- Temuka golf course in the Macrocarpa trees.
- Botanic Gardens – Timaru in the Tasmanian Blackwood tree April 2019 Great spot to see the Monarchs.
- Oamaru Public Gardens – Look in the Cypress Trees.
- Jellicoe Park – Onehunga
- Blockhouse Bay Recreational Reserve
- Apollo Park – on Apollo Parade, Milson, they are on about 8 willows trees
- Hamilton Gardens Cobham Drive
- Washbourn Gardens
- Warren Park – near the kids playground.
- Domain Road Cemetery – in the Jacaranda Tree opposite the church
- Victoria Square on the corner of Peel and Brougham St
A BIG thank you to all the butterfly musketeers that visited and checked the sites that I couldn’t get go, to report sightings with my own eyes. It’s great to see so many overwintering parks on the list and new additions. Whilst every endeavour has been made for this list to be correct, Monarchs have their own agenda and move from tree to tree or different locations. I have been to the same park sometimes 3 times in a week and you never know how many you would see, as this Autumn I think the Monarchs have been confused with the mild temperatures and not began to fly to their overwintering parks for winter months. Instead they are happily still eating nectar in our own gardens as the days have been warm.
This year we hope the metal bands will protect the Monarch Butterflies from rodents and they stay safe sleeping in the tree. If you start noticing Monarch butterfly wings on the floor in large number please let us know as we can help, and find out whats happening.
Also I would like to thank each and every one of you that raise Monarch Butterflies each summer, continuing to sow many swan plants seeds and buy endless amounts of Swan plants. It’s because of you who puts in so much effort and time that the Monarchs are around Christchurch in their thousands. Well done!