Central city  |  5 Apr 2019

Monarchs are enjoying a new home in the central city – a community butterfly house under the care of local school children.

The Butterfly House, adjoining a new public space called Kahikatea Common between Tuam and St Asaph Streets, provides a place for people to admire and learn more about monarchs.

The house, along with a nearby monarch butterfly mural and Community Wood Fired Pizza Oven, is in the South Frame and has received support from Christchurch City Council’s Enliven Places Projects Fund. The fund supports projects that activate temporarily vacant spaces and help make the city more vibrant, interesting and innovative.

The projects have also been supported by Crown company Ōtākaro Ltd as a way to bring local people together.

The house and pizza oven, which opened last October, were built by volunteers from the Hornby and Christchurch Sunrise Rotary Clubs at working bees held over three weekends.

The geodesic dome is built from steel brackets, timber and shade cloth and can be relocated when the space it uses is permanently developed. Sheltered inside are monarchs at various life stages, including caterpillars, chrysalides and emerging butterflies.

They are being looked after by volunteers from local businesses and children at St Michael’s Church School with the help of mentor Maria Romero, who has written a book about monarchs and has a website called The Butterfly Musketeers.

She gives talks to school groups and last September helped students at 130 local schools to plant over 10,000 swan plant seeds to feed hungry caterpillars. This week she explained to some St Michael's pupils how tags (lightweight stickers with a unique code) are placed on the wings of late summer monarchs so their movements over the winter can be traced.

Ms Romero says having a butterfly house in the city raises awareness of the importance of these flying insects as pollinators and creates a bright spot in the city.

“I’m a passionate person who loves raising monarch butterflies with my children in my own garden as I know the benefits they get from them, including the joy and wonder they experience. I’m keen to share my knowledge with as many people as possible.”

 Ms Romero also helped organise the butterfly mural to be painted by Richard ‘Pops’ Baker, on a brick wall next to the house.

Council Head of Urban Design, Regeneration and Heritage Carolyn Ingles says the butterfly house is a unique project. “It’s something different that brings together school children, residents, and butterfly enthusiasts in a very positive, educational way. It’s been a wonderful community collaboration and the Council is pleased to have helped make it happen.”

The Butterfly House is on land privately owned by the Donnithorne family who have allowed the site to be used on a temporary basis for education and events that provide community and environmental benefits.