“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”
About four years ago, I heard from one of our members (Mr. Meinertzhagen) that he had captured at Waimarama a butterfly of this species. On his communicating with me concerning it, I identified it as one I had more than once seen in my travels in New Zealand many years before. Shortly after that I saw a pair of them flying here on the hill-side, at Napier; other specimens were also caught much about the same time, one, or more, of which are now in the Museum of the Athenæum in this town. And Mr. Meinertzhagen, and subsequently Mr. Huntley, found from the Maoris that they knew the insect well.
Mr. R. W. Fereday, of Canterbury, has a paper on the Waimarama butterfly, in Vol. VI. of the “Transactions of the N.Z. Institute.” In that paper Mr. Fereday mentions two species (or varieties) D. erippus and D. archippus, specimens of both being in the Canterbury Museum. The former, D. erippus, having been sent from Melbourne; the latter, D. archippus, from San Francisco. Mr. Fereday doubts our New Zealand butterfly being distinct from D. erippus; at the same time he prefers giving it the specific name of berenice—which has superseded that of erippus in some published catalogues.
Mr. Fereday further says, that Mr. Nairn, of Poureerere, had found some larvæ of this insect on plants of Gomphocarptis ovata growing in his garden. It is not at all unlikely that the “cotton plants,” whence Mr. Huntley obtained his specimens, were a species of Gomphocarpus, from the scrap of a spinous capsule, or follicle, I found remaining in the box; but the leaves were long and lanceolate, as I subsequently found from Mr. Huntley. I know several species of Gomphocarpus, but none bearing the specific name of ovata.
From a portion of a newspaper lately received from a friend, I find that our butterfly, or a species very nearly allied to it, was represented, in two very fair characteristic cuts, in the “Australian Sketcher,” of July 12, 1873, under the name of Danais archippus, on the authority of Professor McCoy of Melbourne, where it had been lately captured, who says it is found very commonly in America from Canada to Brazil; but only of late years observed in North Australia, Queensland, and the northern parts of New South Wales, and more recently in Melbourne.
I venture, however, to doubt our insect being identical with the Australian one, as therein represented and described; there seems a slight difference in its markings, and a still greater one in its colour. Those differences, however, may be only sexual ones. Should it hereafter prove, on full examination and comparison of specimens of both sexes, to be distinct from both the Australian and American insects, I trust it will have, and retain, the name of Danais novœ-zealandiœ.