Kiwi researcher hopes to give native wasp a new – magical – name
A New Zealand researcher is tired of the bad reputation suffered by our native wasps. Many Kiwis confuse the native species for the common German wasps that offer a painful sting and cost the economy as much as $130 million every year.
However, as University of Auckland doctoral student Tom Saunders points out, the New Zealand native species don’t live in colonies, and they don’t even sting.
That’s why Mr Saunders is attempting to fix the wasp’s reputation, and he has come up with a novel way of doing so – literally.
He has chosen one of the more widespread of New Zealand’s endemic wasp species and has named it Lusius malfoyi after a character in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In the world-famous novels, Lucius Malfoy is presented as a minor villain throughout the series, until in the final book, he and his family turn their backs on the major villain, Voldemort.
Mr Saunders believes the name is fitting, as there are certainly plenty of ‘menacing’ traits about the wasp. For example, to breed, this wasp injects its eggs into caterpillars, so the larvae can feed on its host.
That said, as far as wasps go, the Lusius malfoyi is still fairly harmless at the end of the day, and now New Zealanders have a fun new way of remembering its name.
Mr Saunders took an interest in wasps and spent his Masters degree working on ways to improve ways to catch them, as the current problem is that there isn’t much data around New Zealand’s wasp populations. This means it’s hard to track them, or to know if their numbers are rising or declining.
Even if wasps aren’t something you’d like to encounter, there are plenty of other wonderful native and endemic species that we meet during our nature tours from Auckland!
The mining ban: What it is and why it matters
The New Zealand government has made a new announcement to state that no new mines will be permitted on conservation land, in a move that has quickly been applauded by groups such as Forest & Bird.
The announcement came from Eugenie Sage, the Minister of Conservation, who stated that “the new Government will strengthen the protection for public conservation land by making it off-limits for new mining”.
She went on to explain that public conservation lands have been created in order to help nature to thrive, and also so that New Zealanders and visitors alike can enjoy them. Allowing mines to be built in these areas would run counter to those goals, she said, as it would destroy vegetation and habitats and change the natural landscapes.
Sage also noted that New Zealand is experiencing a “biodiversity crisis”, with as many as 4,000 plants and wildlife species threatened with extinction, and said that conservation lands are one way to offer them protection.
Forest & Bird, a leading conservation group that promotes nature throughout the country, has been quick to applaud the announcement.
The group’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague released their own announcement, saying “we are delighted that the Government recognises that protected conservation land means just that. It’s protected”
While the group is still hoping to see more work done for conservation, such as the banning of new coal mining in all areas and giving the Denniston Plateau further protections, they are excited about the new move regarding conservation lands.
Likewise, we at Habitat Tours agree that any move in the direction of more conservation for our flora and fauna is a positive one, and we will continue to educate and inspire visitors about the wonderful New Zealand outdoors on our nature tours from Auckland.
Christmas gift ideas for nature lovers
Christmas is just around the corner, and it’s never too later to find that perfect gift for your loved one. If that special someone happens to love nature, we’ve got a few great gift ideas to help you put a smile on their face come Christmas morning!
Plant trees on their behalf
For the nature lover who has everything, consider making a donation to conserve or improve nature in their name. There are endless options for donations all over the world for you to choose from, so you’ll have no problems finding one that fits the bill.
If you’d like one here in New Zealand, the Native Forest Restoration Trust allows you to dedicate a tree in someone’s name for just $25, or a small grove of five trees for $100, and the seed will grow to become part of a new native forest!
A good set of binoculars
Binoculars are not a necessity for enjoying the outdoors, which is often why nature fans don’t own a decent set. However, they can greatly enhance any outdoor adventure by adding a whole new world to any excursion. This is a particularly good gift for those who enjoy bird watching, or viewing wildlife that’s difficult to approach in person.
An outdoor ‘survival pack’
Any kind of survival pack gift can be as much fun to put together for the gifter as it is to unpack for the giftee. For an outdoor one, find a box (or natural-woven basket) and fill it with practical and fun goodies that will help with their next adventure. Think about useful things such as water purifying tablets, sunscreen, a small torch, insect repellent, a locator beacon, a guide book, walking socks, or a plant-identifying book. Plus, add a few fun things like sweets, photos of yourself or the two of you together, or a silly pack of cards.
Build a bird house together
A well-stocked birdhouse in New Zealand is a surefire way to enjoy some of our most gorgeous flying wildlife. From the melodious bellbird to the friendly fantail, your loved one may soon enjoy waking up to these treasured species out the window every morning.
While there’s nothing wrong with buying one ready-made, consider gifting that special someone with the tools to ‘DIY’, then promptly inform them that it’s a project you’ll tackle together. This gives you a bit of quality time as well as the awesome gift itself!
A nature tour with Habitat Tours
What better gift for a nature lover than a nature tour? We offer day-time and night-time tours of Tawharanui, and day-time excursions to The Waitakere Ranges. Each one offers a unique blend of sight-seeing, education about native plants and wildlife, and short walking tours, all just a short drive from Auckland city.
Also, be sure to check out our gift guide for hikers!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist