Costly invasive pest the great white butterfly eradicated - DoC

The great white butterfly (DoC/supplied)
The great white butterfly (DoC/supplied)

Large swathes of New Zealand's horticultural industry have been saved from a plague of white wings.

It's believed the invasive great white butterfly, first spotted in Nelson in 2010, has been eradicated from the country.

Department of Conservation (DoC) spokesperson Chris Scolding says the pest could have easily spread a lot further.

"They were going to provide a significant risk to the horticulture industry."

DoC estimated an established infestation would have cost the country up to $133 million a year to control.

In 2013, the department offered a bounty of $10 for each great white butterfly caught in the Nelson region during the school holidays.

Mr Scolding says the caterpillars could have wreaked havoc through Nelson. Females are able to lay as many as 750 eggs.

"It's quite an aggressive caterpillar. Rather than nibbling on a plant and moving on, it will essentially target an individual plant and eat it until there's nothing left."

Costly invasive pest the great white butterfly eradicated - DoC

Great white butterfly caterpillars (DoC / supplied)

It's believed the pest posed a significant threat to 79 native coastal cress species.

"They'd be a significant threat to the agricultural industry as well."

DoC rangers carried out more than 263,000 searches in the region for the butterfly and its eggs, caterpillars and pupae.