Say hello to one of only two native butterflies: the Kamehameha butterfly, Vanessa tameamea. This is the original pulelehua, named in honor of royalty, and claimed as the official state insect in 2009, thanks to the efforts of a group of students from Pearl Ridge Elementary. Even its egg, laid singly on the upper or lower sides of certain native nettles, looks regal - like a miniature monarch's crown. Once the caterpillars hatch, they do a fine job of munching away on their host plants, and the young instars will cut a distinctive crescent-shaped incision in the leaf, then flap it over in a mini-tent of protection. As they molt, they get spiky, and the final instar is quite the bumpy and spiny larva. As adults, they favor the sap of the native koa. But it would seem that there are less and less of these regal flyers, and researchers at UH Manoa want to find out why. So they have begun the Pulelehua Project. Funded by the DLNR, the project asks the public to submit photos of Vanessa tameamea eggs, chrysalis, caterpillars, and adult butterflies, along with the location of the sighting. By involving the public, scientists hope to get a more accurate mapping of the butterfly's distribution than they could do alone. Their website, http://www.KamehamehaButterfly.com, has identification aids and comparisons with look-alike butterflies, such as the Painted Lady and Red Admiral. Also included are photos of the native nettles that serve as host plants, including māmaki (Pipturus albidus), olonā (Touchardia latifolia), ōpuhe (Urera spp.) and ʻākōlea (Boehmeria grandis). So the next time you take a hike, keep your eyes peeled, and bring your camera.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.