Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Kupea electilis Philpott, 1930

Kupea electilis Philpott, 1930

Current DoC threat status

Nationally Vulnerable.

Recognition / similar species

This slender-looking species is unlikely to be confused with any other at its only known site. The forewing has a distinctive eye-like white spot beyond the middle, underlined by a dark streak.

Known distribution and abundance

Known only from Kaitorete Spit, Canterbury. Survey in 2012 located six populations, three of which are within the Kaitorete Spit Scientific Reserve.


Sand plain behind foredunes and low hind dunes.

Host-plant and biology of early stages

The hostplant is Zoysia minima, a rhizomatous low-growing indigenous grass of mainly bare sandy areas. The larva lives within a “sock” of sand grains and silk, just below the sand surface amongst the stems and roots of the hostplant. This “sock” attains a length of 35mm and is up to 8mm wide. Within this home the larva stores short lengths of dry hostplant grass. It may therefore feed within the “sock” in times of inhospitable weather on this dry grass material. Faecal pellets are expelled from one end of the structure while the larva emerges to feed from the opposite end.

Flight period (months of year) and behaviour of adult

Adults emerge between mid March and early April. They can easily be disturbed by day in their habitat. They have not been attracted to light, so their activity time is not known, but the species may be crepuscular with males flying on warm calm evenings at dusk.

Potential monitoring technique(s)

A standardised walk-through survey by day, through several of the known populations would provide comparative data if carried out in good weather at the appropriate time of year.


Three of the six known populations, including the largest known population, are on Ngai Tahu owned land on Kaitorete Spit. This land is grazed extensively by cattle and sheep, with rabbits in abundance. All this grazing, especially by hoofed animals, may damage the habitat by disturbance. Magpies have also been observed probing the ground, presumably for larvae, on these key sites.

The other three populations are within the Department of Conservation Scientific Reserve which is actively managed to eliminate exotic weeds, keep out exotic animals and maintain the habitat in as natural condition as possible.

Brian H. Patrick