Photo: Bryce Mcquillan

Insect Conservation at Dansey Road

20 March, 2016

Written by Gary Coker, Conservation Manager

Since we launched here at Rotorua Canopy Tours, we’ve been working hard to ensure the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve is a safe place for the native species that call it home to live and raise their young safely.  The focus is often on the species that are visible on a forest canopy tour, like the birds and trees. But there are many other creatures that not only call the forest home and are integral to the health of the forest.

Forest Canopy Tour Peripitus Insect

Insects are a cornerstone of any healthy ecosystem but are often overlooked as many are nocturnal or live inside rotten logs or leaf litter.  We were lucky to have a visit from Bryce Mcquillian and his partner Angela Simpson – both expert insect photographers and extremely knowledgeable about unique NZ invertebrates.

I accompanied these two experts on several nighttime forays into the reserve, and the sheer numbers and diversity of the species we encountered was amazing. Often it’s not until these things are pointed out that you begin to appreciate what is all around you!

Forest Canopy Tour Leaf Vein Slug Insect

It is often said that New Zealand is dominated by birds, yet for every type of land bird in the country, there are more than 200 kinds of insects, with the total estimated to be about 20,000 insect species.

Many of these have not yet been classified by science so you never know what you might find on your forest canopy tour.  Due to New Zealand’s unique history, many of these insects have ancient pedigrees – the Velvet worm (Peripitus) ancestors date back 520 million years!

Bryce and Angela have so far found several rare species in “our” forest as well as one spider species that are possibly new to science.

Forest Canopy Tour Orbweb Spider Insect

Many of these species, such as the Flat worms, are favorite foods of introduced Rats which devastate spider and bird numbers all over the country. However, thanks to the network of Goodnature automatic traps that we have constantly in operation in the forest, the pest species are in low numbers allowing the insects, birds and trees to flourish.

Lately we have noticed more birds, and these birds are all raising chicks at the moment. There are lots and lots of insects day and night and the canopy itself is thick, vibrant and lush.

– watch this space as we progress more; plenty more exciting discoveries await!

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