New Zealand's native animal and plant life is under no threat from a Japanese butterfly that is being deliberately introduced to combat an invasive weed playing havoc with our environment, scientists say.
Honshu white admiral butterflies are being released in the Waikato region as a measure against Japanese honeysuckle, a fast spreading white-flowered vine that is quickly becoming a major problem.
Introduced to New Zealand as a garden plant, Japanese honeysuckle has become well established in bush environments, capable of growing up to 15m a year.
It is hoped the offspring of the butterflies will feed on the weed during the caterpillar stage, and scientists are confident the introduced measure will not negatively impact on native flora and fauna.
"All biocontrol agents go through some very stringent testing before we're allowed to release them in New Zealand," Landcare Research scientist Quentin Paynter told ONE News.
"And with Japanese Honeysuckle we're even more confident because it's not related to any native plants in New Zealand."
A batch of newly-hatched butterflies was released at an undisclosed location in the Waikato today.