Georgia Third of Green Island School asks :-

How many types of butterflies are there in the world?

Brian Patrick, an entomologist at Otago Museum, responded.

There are about 20,000 butterfly species in the world, most of which are found in the tropical regions. Butterfly experts classify them into five super-families to help with the organisation of such a large number of species. Biogeographers have also split the world into several faunal regions to reflect the distributions of the species, because certain species are found in certain places reflecting past and ongoing geological events.

Many tropical countries such as Malaysia and Papua New Guinea have over 1000 species each whereas temperate countries have far less. Japan has 250, United Kingdom 67 and Canada about 125.

Surprisingly the large island continent of Australia has just 400 species, most of which are found only in North Queensland. This relects the arid nature of Australia and the small amount of tropical rain forest remaining there.

Recent research at the Otago Museum has uncovered an additional 52 butterfly species in New Zealand making our total about 75 species. The new species are in the copper, tussock and black mountain butterfly groups. It is surprising that so many butterflies in this country are un-named and poorly known. Some of these new discoveries were found unrecognized in collections while others were found in remote mountains, valleys and coastal places. Our butterfly fauna is interesting as we are without three of the five worldwide super-families and in fact the only place to have no native skipper, white or swallowtail butterflies. But we somewhat make up for that with an abundance of copper and satyrid butterflies.