Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Rare King Kamehameha Butterfly

King Kamehameha Butterfly or Pulelehua in Hawaiian; this is also Hawaii's official state insect! Latin name: Vanessa tameamea. Ironic how the Hawaiian to English spelling/translation changed over the years. In any case, I've wanted to see one of these for years and all I ever found were Gulf Fritillaries. Now I know why. It turns out that the King Kamehameha Butterly depends on the Mamaki, an endemic Hawaiian Nettle, as a host plant. As the Hawaiian endemic forest declined with the introduction of invasive non-native plant species, so too did the population of the King Kamehameha Butterfly. I had to go way up into an isolated "Kipuka" forest high on Mauna Loa to see this little butterfly.

No comments: