Category: Update

New stock and Second Edition

Update April 2, 2017

Good afternoon all! Thanks very much for your patience regarding an update on the playing cards. We have a couple exciting bits of news.

  1. Firstly, manufacture on our second order of cards is almost complete and the new decks will be shipped on the 5th or 6th April.
  2. We opted to ship by sea rather than air this time so shipping to NZ should take about 3 weeks. We were really keen to ship by air up until the very end when we found out that it would cost us 1900USD. At that cost we had to opt for the significantly cheaper (but slower) sea freight (about $600USD).
  3. We have several physical retailers in a range of centres. These include the Auckland Museum, New Plymouth Museum, and Pauanesia in Auckland. We will update with a full list of retailers in the next couple of weeks.
  4. We are taking pre-orders for the next set of cards. Drop us a message if you would like us to reserve some packs for you (via the Facebook page or at nzinsectcards[ at ]
  5. Finally (and this is the biggest thing) but one of the reasons for manufacture taking a little longer is that this next lot will actually be the second edition of playing cards and not just a restock of the first set of designs. It’s the same set of insects but, based on feedback from the first pack and a couple errors we spotted ourselves, there were enough changes which justified calling it the second edition.

Main changes in the second edition include:

  1. Common insect names (in addition to scientific names)
  2. Removal of glow from the abdomen of the adult glow worm
  3. Second edition stamp. The tuck box is otherwise unchanged.

To elaborate on the common name thing. We opted to only include the scientific name in our first edition for a couple reasons. Number 1: We were worried that there wouldn’t be enough room and that if we included too much text it might be difficult to read. Number 2: Some of our featured species don’t have very specific common names. Also multiple species have the same common name. As an example, the term “giraffe weevil” could refer to a native weevil species or to a weevil which is found only in Madagascar.

The giraffe weevil on the left is Trachelophorus giraffa which is endemic to Madagascar. The giraffe weevil on the right is a male Lasiorhynchus barbicornis sitting on a tree in the Waitakere ranges.

But since we released the first edition, we’ve received a lot of feedback and had the chance to think things over. We realised that, while common names aren’t that helpful for looking up information, they’re a really useful tool for learning and memorising different common insects.

With only a bit of rearranging, we think we’ve managed to include both the common and the scientific names with only minimal changes to the size of the illustrations. Thanks so much to everyone who provided feedback on this point – we would not have realised this important point on our own and believe that the cards will be much improved for the change!

Many thanks,

Leilani and Emma

Pre-orders are open!

Update December 5, 2016

We’ve received awesome news from Legends Playing Card Co.: the decks have finished manufacture and are on their way to NZ as we speak! We had delayed opening pre-orders until we had a good idea about when the cards would be arriving.

Since the last update we have changed from BigCartel to Shopify to allow for a greater range of payment options and you can take a look at the site here. We will be offering payment for those with PayPal accounts and by bank transfer. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at

Cards will retail for $20 per pack. If you are an educator or would otherwise be interested in buying in bulk or in stocking our cards please feel free to get in touch.

Shipping will be a flat rate with $5 shipping within New Zealand, $10 to Australia and $25 internationally.

A day in the life of an entomologist

Update November 11, 2016

Collated and written by Chrissie Painting. Chrissie is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Auckland. For her doctorate she studied the lovely giraffe weevil whose profile we’ve uploaded here

As the year draws to an end, many school and university students may be starting to ponder about their futures and the possibility of a career in science. If you have a passion for insects you may like to consider becoming an entomologist; a scientist that specialises in studying insects.

In New Zealand there are many different ways that you can work in entomology. If you are interested in insect pests you could work at a government institute like AgResearch, Plant & Food Research or Scion, or if you are interested in naming and describing new species you could work somewhere like Landcare Research, or the Te Papa Museum. You can also find entomologists scattered around NZ at the various universities and polytechnics, where they spend their careers teaching students and doing their own research on insect ecology, conservation, forensics, genetics, and pest management.


The work of an entomologist can vary hugely from day to day

When I started looking in to a career in science I really had no idea what a typical work week would look like. I had this vague impression in my mind that scientists spent their days doing mysterious experiments in the laboratory, but I couldn’t imagine myself in their shoes.

So, to help budding scientists get a better idea of what we get up to in our jobs, I asked a bunch of kiwi entomologists to tell me what makes up their typical work day. These fantastic people are all passionate about their work and contribute to our understanding of insects in a myriad of ways. These were their responses:

While all of these scientists have very different roles, many of them commented that there really is no such thing as a typical work day. Summer months might be spent clambering around the forest on the lookout for their species of interest, while in the winter months they are more likely to be found in the lab processing their finds under the microscope or at their desks analysing data, writing reports or preparing teaching material. Having such a dynamic and varied day is what many scientists enjoy the most about their jobs, especially when their discoveries lead them down paths they never thought they would find themselves on.

While we may not get to spend as much time out in the forest chasing bugs as we would like, being an entomologist can be incredibly stimulating and rewarding. It can also be hard work and a little tedious! Luckily the fun parts make it all worthwhile. We encourage you to continue being curious and consider that one day you could develop your fascination with insects into your day job.

Thank you to Shelley Myers, Dhahara Ranatunga, Rich Leschen, Corinne Watts, Catherine Duthie, Rob Cruickshank, and Stacey Lemont for sharing their experiences with us.


Chrissie now researches weapon evolution and fighting behaviour in harvestmen. Photo by Anna Probert.

Hiding in plain sight: finding insects in cities and new insect descriptions (27 Oct)

Update October 27, 2016

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Emma and I as we wrap up some of our own work and generate content for the website. We want to thank everyone who’s shown interest in the project and for some very lovely emails. I know that I (Leilani) had sort of seen the cards as a niche product so I’ve been so chuffed to find so many people who are also interested in insects.

A couple updates:

  • We have set up an online store. It’s pretty barren at the moment but we will begin pre-orders late November.
  • We’re still working on physical retailers but will aim to have one in each of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
  • We’ve released our first set of insect descriptions along with some basic information about taxonomy and scientific names.

When picking the first six species to write descriptions for went with the theme “Hiding in plain sight” which applies in a couple different ways. Firstly, insects employ a range of techniques to avoid being found including incredible camouflage and the ancient practice of standing very very still. Alternatively, juvenile spittlebugs produce a light foam to cover themselves, living what is essentially an aquatic life while hiding from view and looking like someone’s spat on a tree. Finally, the Kenocoelus beetle uses chemicals to avert the aggression of their ant hosts and gain access to their nests.

But it also seemed an appropriate first set of species to write up because, given their size, colour and behaviours, insects can be quite hard to find. Sometimes when I talk to people who are keen about insects they bemoan that you don’t find anything “fun” in cities. Number one: what’s not fun about ants, buddy? Number two: there are actually a lot more insects in urban and suburban environments than we might think.


We think of cities as these deserts for biodiversity and that this applies to our inner city parks but in reality is this isn’t always the case. While the diversity in cities is certainly smaller compared to native bush and many of the species present are exotics, it’s surprising how much one can find particularly if in cities which support ecological functions. Singapore contains more than 10 ecosystems within its bounds and Cape Town hosts 50% of South Africa’s critically endangered vegetation types (1). For a more local example, one long term study back in 1990 found more than 1000 species of beetle in Lynfield in Auckland (2). At the time that represented about 15% of NZs beetle fauna. In Lynfield.

But we rarely conduct inventories of the indigenous fauna of cities which is the gap that projects such as BioBlitz aim to tackle. BioBlitz teams up the public with scientists and sets them loose in a park such as the Auckland Domain or the Botanic gardens to find as many species as possible (plant, animal, fungi etc.) within 24 hours. Back in 2015 a BioBlitz was held in Kepa Bush in St Johns, Auckland and about 1000 different species were found in 22 hours across about 14 hectares (3).

Which just goes to show that our understanding of diversity depends a lot on having someone to make note of it. Another project which uses public observation to generate information about species diversity is NatureWatch where people log sightings of animals (among other things) and leave photographs which others can identify. This is a picture of Auckland on NatureWatch if you search for listings of “insects”.

This is Auckland.


Meanwhile this is the University of Auckand’s Tamaki campus. The vast majority of those entries are made by one employee at the University.


It’s true that cities aren’t as diverse as native bush and that a lot of the large native insects don’t always find their way into downtown Auckland but there are still plenty of fun things to find in the suburbs. Insects are small and frequently camouflaged and it can take a while to develop the knack for finding them but if you or your family want to get into insects you probably don’t need to go any further than your garden or the tree down the road.

(Tip for inner city Aucklanders: if you want to find Native NZ mantises, go to the Auckland Domain and if you want to find damselflies, Unitec on Carrington Road has them).


1. The biodiverse city. (2012).
2. Kuschel, G (1990). Beetles in a suburban environment: a New Zealand case study: the identity and status of Coleoptera in the natural and modified habitats of Lynfield, Auckland (1974-1989). DSIR Plant Protection Report No. 3. Auckland, DSIR.
3. BioBlitz 2015: Pourewa Reserve and Kepa Bush (Auckland). (2015).

Announcement time! (9 Oct)

Update October 8, 2016

My name is Leilani Walker and I am so excited to finally announce that the New Zealand insect playing card project project is both a thing and that it is a thing nearing fruition. I’ve been working this project over the past year alongside the indefatigable Emma Scheltema and after many meetings and pots of tea we have completed the design of pack of cards featuring 52 hand illustrations of native New Zealand insects.

We are really proud of how the artwork has turned out. Manufacture has begun (with a deposit paid by wire transfer – did you know that that’s still a thing?) and I should have 1000 decks sitting in my house by December.

Over the coming months we will be updating the website with details about the featured insects. To keep up to date follow us on Facebook or sign up to our mailing list.

This project was made possible through the generous financial support from The Entomological Society of New Zealand.