Overwintering Parks in NZ

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.

Redwood Park (2)

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.

Larch Reserve Casebrook

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.

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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 monarchs@thebutterflymusketeers.com, and I’ll add it to the list – many thanks!!

St James Park.jpg

Christchurch City
📍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.
📍Kaiapoi Domain
📍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.

South Canterbury

📍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

Palmerston North
📍Apollo Park – on Apollo Parade, Milson, they are on about 8 willows trees

Nelson
📍Isel Park
📍Washbourn Gardens – Redwood trees.

Whanganui
📍St Johns Hill Area.

Taranaki
📍Hawera – King Edward Park, Macrocarpa trees.

Levin
📍Kimberly Park Reserve – Conifer trees.

Whakatane
📍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.

An Educational Guide on Monarch Butterflies

Or order for your kindle E Book Links

USA- https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091YY872T

AU- https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B091YY872T

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.

52 thoughts on “Overwintering Parks in NZ”

  1. Greta Aafje Vink

    Visited Larch Reserve, we could only find a few strings there about five. Visited also St James Park last Friday and found nothing. We that is my daughter Nellie and myself and finding nothing, while at Redwood Park
    all of the clusters are still there. Looked again this morning, the sun was shining and a few were gliding.
    It made my day. Greta Vink

      1. Saw hundreds in a park behind the grey town shops, two trees think oak trees with several clusters on each. T

    1. Yes I found one in Martinborough Square approx 2 years ago and reported its location to the Council there so the arborist would be told of its location. Caryl (Wellington)

  2. Kia ora
    I was wondering where the best place to take my class of five and six year olds would be to see these in Christchurch? There are a lot of options which are great but what are the best ones?
    Thank you
    Amy

  3. Do you know if there are any in Ashburton? Picnicking in Ashburton Domain tomorrow for my 2 year old’s birthday and butterflies would be a cool bonus!

  4. Hi we would love to take a group of preschoolers to see the monarchs. I checked out the trees near Pioneer and couldn’t see any myself. Is this likely to be a good place for littlies to see them?

    1. Can anyone answer this, or know of any nearby? Even if you know of locations in previous years that may have been overwintering destinations could once again be a location the Monarchs have returned to a couple of years later.

  5. Martie Sisson

    Have just checked out a site here in Whakatane and found Hundreds of Monarchs Overwintering

    1. Tammy Malcolm

      Hi Martie, I’m SO keen to see monarchs overwintering. Where have you seen them?

      1. Tammy Malcolm

        I’m on the Coromandel peninsula, but will happily travel for a good experience of overwintering monarchs. Ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour I’ve been so keen!! We raise many Monarchs here , and at the local school where I work: in fact I saw two flirty butterflies sizing each other up just today, the 27th July!! Tammy

    1. At Aotea Lagoon above the kids train tunnel. There’s a butterfly walk and they hang in the big pines in that area.

    2. There would be obviously very many. There used to be one in the golf course near the airport. There is one near the Police College, Whitby and a neighbour told me the winter overs had been there 46 years. She was a close neighour.

  6. Thanks so much, I visited NZ in April 2019 and saw my first Monarchs in the Plane trees by the children’s playground in Warren Park, Whakatane. They were also nectaring on the pink Silk Floss trees nearby.

  7. Donald Harvey

    Hundreds monarch s at Oamaru garden s opposite red bridge in tall trees 22may 2019

  8. I never knew of this but today was taken over to Victoria Park in Rangiora by my 8 year old daughter where we saw quite a few clusters of the Monarchs, some quite low down in a few of the trees there. What an awesome sight it is to see. We will continue to make regular visits on way home from school now.

  9. Cassandra Colman

    Hi, any ideas of sites on the west coast? Specifically Hokitika or Greymouth?

    1. karen aynsley

      There are parks in Westport and Hokitika they overwinter at, but for the life of me i cant think of the names. There used to be some at Carters Beach but i have not seen them there. None that i have seen here in Greymouth yet

  10. Eilis Galuszewski

    Do you know of any wintering tree in West Auckland or Freemans Bay? What’s the advantage to the butterfly of all being together over winter and how do they know where to go? Which trees to go to?

  11. summer of 2020 – we have hatched and seen lots and lots of butterflies this time around – a lot more than last year, so here’s hoping they are on the incline (in New Zealand at least).

  12. oops I should have said we have seen the butterflies around Clarks Beach, which is south of Auckland.

  13. Hi was just wondering if you knew of any sites for over wintering monarchs in hawkes bay. Thanks.

  14. I have lived in Auckland for 6 years and for the first four years always had trouble getting enough food for caterpillars. Sadly for the past 2 years that has not been a problem because not on caterpillar has been spotted on my numerous plant.😩

    1. Hello Viv, I hear the wasps are pest up there in Auckland. Have you seen any in your area? Have you checked your plants for eggs or caterpillars recently? Put a shout out on a FB group that you wish to re home any surplus of caterpillars people cant feed. As people always run out of plants.

  15. I have been nurturing between 20 to 30 Monarch caterpillars on my one big Swan plant, but what happens whe n they strip the whole bush! I have been able to access more branches from locals, and slowly have about 10 – 15 chrysalises all around the place, some under eaves of the house. Goodness knows where al the others went! As you say, Monarchs are very clever! They WILL survive!
    My concern.. the weather is highly volatile at the moment. Can I move them under cover? Away from high winds and rain?

  16. Ruth Parsons

    Hi. We have been noting a few monarchs flying around our house then today have seen them in our Pohutukawa tree. Looks like a “diapause”. This is in Waihi Beach.

  17. Graeme Gemmill

    Currently there are quite a few clusters in the Oak and Ash trees at the back of the Church Cemetery in Prebbleton

    1. I have just put a post out asking for help to identify so area if there are any on a 24hrs post. As I have had many requests! Let me know if your able to go to a few parks, theres like Elm, evergreen and Cypress trees.

  18. Gordon Sherwood Kawerau NZ

    There are a few in Warren park Whakatane at the moment. Just been to see them. What a fantastic display clustering together on a fine winter’s day. Definitely over 200.

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