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Eradicating the large white butterfly from New Zealand eliminates a threat to endemic Brassicaceae

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posted on 2023-05-04, 10:04 authored by Craig PhillipsCraig Phillips, Kerry Brown, Chris Green, Richard Toft, Graham Walker, Keith Broome
In May 2010 the large white butterfly, Pieris brassicae L. (Lepidoptera: Pieridae), was discovered to have established in New Zealand. It is a Palearctic species that—due to its wide host plant range within the Brassicaceae—was regarded as a risk to New Zealand’s native brassicas. New Zealand has 83 native species of Brassicaceae including 81 that are endemic, and many are threatened by both habitat loss and herbivory by other organisms. Initially a program was implemented to slow its spread, then an eradication attempt commenced in November 2012. The P. brassicae population was distributed over an area of approximately 100 km2 primarily in urban residential gardens. The eradication attempt involved promoting public engagement and reports of sightings, including offering a bounty for a two week period, systematically searching gardens for P. brassicae and its host plants, removing host plants, ground-based spraying of insecticide to kill eggs and larvae, searching for pupae, capturing adults with nets, and augmenting natural enemy populations. The attempt was supported by research that helped to progressively refine the eradication strategy and evaluate its performance. The last New Zealand detection of P. brassicae occurred on 16 December 2014, the eradication program ceased on 4 June 2016 and P. brassicae was officially declared eradicated from New Zealand on 22 November 2016, 6.5 years after it was first detected and 4 years after the eradication attempt commenced. This is the first species of butterfly ever to have been eradicated worldwide.


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Copyright: © 2020 Phillips et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • English

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Journal title

PLoS One




Phillips, C. B., Brown, K., Green, C., Toft, R., Walker, G., & Broome, K. (2020). Eradicating the large white butterfly from New Zealand eliminates a threat to endemic Brassicaceae. PLoS One, 15(8), e0236791. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0236791

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