Discover more about five New Zealand insects, each one representing a different order within the insect kingdom.
This interactive gives information on five New Zealand insects, each representing different orders within the insect kingdom. Of the world's 29 insect orders, 24 are represented in Aotearoa. Select a label to learn more about this insect and the order it belongs to.
Mānuka beetle (Pyronota festiva)
Māori name: kēkerewai, repowai
This beetle is an example of the Coleoptera order of insects. In the course of its life, this beetle feeds on a range of plants although it’s frequently found on or near mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium), hence its name. Mānuka beetles spend a year as larvae living in the ground feeding on the roots of plants like ryegrass and clover, which means they are sometimes considered a pest species.
Image sourced from iNaturalistNZ, © Steve Kerr, CC BY 4.0
Ants, bees and wasps, Hymenoptera
Native bee (Leioproctus fulvescens)
Bees are from the Hymenoptera order of insects. You may be surprised to know that New Zealand has several native bee species of its own. They’re generally smaller than the common honey bee and do not have stripes. In contrast to honey bees, they do not have colonies. As solitary bees, females dig nest holes in the ground. In each chamber, females lay just one egg and supply this underground nursery with pollen to feed their larvae. Although you don’t see them as often as honey bees, native bees are very important pollinators of native flowers.
Image public domain
Butterflies and moths, Lepidoptera
Red admiral (Vanessa gonerilla)
Māori name: kahukura
New Zealand has three species of admiral butterfly: two yellow admirals and one red. This species is named for the vibrant red patches on its wings in both Māori (kahukura for ‘red cloak’) and English (red admiral). The red admiral is common throughout the mainland but lives in areas that have New Zealand tree nettles (Urtica ferox). It is part of the Lepidoptera order, which includes moths and butterflies.
Image sourced from iNaturalistNZ, © Kyle Bland, CC BY-NC 4.0
Green soldier fly (Beris sp.)
Insects in the Diptera order of insects are often regarded with disgust, but flies play an important role in pollination and in helping rotting material to decompose. Green soldier flies are important native pollinators. Their larvae can be found in rotting vegetation.
Image from Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, CC BY 4.0
True bugs, Hemiptera
Chorus cicada (Amphipsalta zelandica)
Māori name: kihikihi-wawā
While we think of cicadas as loud, flying insects, they actually spend most of their lives underground. Females lay eggs on plants, and the larvae hatch, fall down and burrow into the ground. On summer nights, these cicadas emerge from their burrows to shed their skins. No one knows how long this species stays under the ground, but in other species, it can be several years. Cicadas belong to the Hemiptera order of insects.
Image of adult cicada emerging, sourced from iNaturalistNZ, © wild_wind, CC BY-NC 4.0
Thank you to the New Zealand insect cards project for its support in the writing of this content.
This has been developed using resources by Dr Leilani Walker and Dr Christina Painting and illustrations by Emma Scheltema. Original material developed with support from the New Zealand Entomological Society. Search the internet to find out where to buy a set of the Insects of New Zealand playing cards.