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 so clever!
In Auckland, it’s quite common to get caterpillars all year round, 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 differences 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 2020. 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 are 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!!
📍Burnside Park – in the big gum trees
📍St James’ Park, Papanui – above the wooden blue slide, high up in the Elm tree, also Sweet Chestnut tree to the left. 150+
📍Risingholme Park, Opawa – conifer tree on the right-hand side if you were leaving the playground via the small bridge.
📍Abberley Park, St Albans – Look for a tree with a silver band around to the right of the building near the entrance. 250+
📍Pioneer Recreation Centre – the tall trees next to the river near the playground.
📍Redwood Park – behind the tennis courts above the path. Swamp Cypress tree. 200+
📍Woodham Park – Linwood, near the playground. Look for the tree with the plaque on it that reads Ginko “Maidenhair” Tree. Plus in both Macrocarpa trees left and right of the Ginko. 300+
📍Bishopdale Park – in the big gum trees near the flying fox & also near the Scouts den.
📍Victoria Park in Rangiora looks for the conifer trees.
📍Larch Reserve – Casebrook – as you enter from Larch place, they are in the large tree towards the back entrance of the park. 10 meters away from the playground. 200+
📍Ernle Clarke Reserve.
📍Denton Park – Hornby Gum trees.
📍NorthWood Park Willow trees 200+
📍Liffey Domain Lincoln – Gum Trees by the river between Kildare & Leinster Terraces 200+
📍Petrie Park – Richmond In the Cypress Tree.
📍St Andrews College – Over bridge from Normans Road entrance. First tree on the left Lawson Cypress tree.
📍Bradford Park – Near Playground.
📍Temuka Recreation Reserve – Temuka
📍Aigantighe Art Gallery in the Himalayan Cedar tree Timaru
📍Ashbury Park – Timaru in the Broadleaf tree
📍Temuka golf course in the Macrocarpa trees
📍Timaru Botanic Gardens in the Tasmanian Blackwood tree
📍West End Park – Timaru in the Conifers.
📍Oamaru Public Gardens
📍Apollo Park – on Apollo Parade, Milson, they are on about 8 willows trees
📍Washbourn Gardens – Redwood trees.
📍St Johns Hill Area.
📍Hawera – King Edward Park, Macrocarpa trees.
📍Kimberly Park Reserve – Conifer trees.
📍Warren Park – Japanese Swamp Tree 200+
Please be aware Monarchs switch from tree to tree, within the same park, they have been playing hide-and-seek with me the last few weeks. I have been to many of these parks below in the same week and numbers have changed dramatically, depending on temps and sunshine. They will mostly be hanging in branches facing north and east. Please note, some of these parks are halfway stations, & will only cluster for a couple of months before heading to bigger sheltered trees in other parks. There are a lot of parts missing from the list especially from the East Side of Christchurch such as Bromley, Rawahiti Domain, and Linwood Cemetery, these are places they go towards peak winter due to the larger trees that give them more shelter.
I know there are so many parks not listed here, that I would love to add!
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. My book is an excellent guide for raising healthy Monarch Butterflies and can be purchased by clicking on the box below for $20 NZD.
Or order for your kindle E Book Links
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 endeavor 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 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 numbers, please let us know as we can help, and find out what’s happening.
Also, I would like to thank each one of you that raises 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! Please email me if you see any new locations around the country, so I can update this page.