New Zealand Native Glowworms

The bioluminescent beauty of the New Zealand native glowworm is a sight to behold, and it can be found throughout Aotearoa. This stunning stamp issue paid tribute to this awe-inducing insect with an exciting twist - the stamps glow in the dark. The photography featured on the issue is from New Zealand photographer Joseph Michael's Luminosity series.

Issue information

Despite what the name suggests, glowworms aren’t true worms - they’re the larval stage of the fungus gnat. The fungus gnat can glow at all stages of its life (except in the egg stage), but it’s during the larval stage that it shines the brightest. The famous blue-green ‘glow’ is a chemical reaction created in what is the glowworm equivalent of the human kidney. The total life cycle of the fungus gnat takes around 11 months, with the glowworm stage being the longest in the life cycle, averaging around nine months.

The New Zealand native glowworm is scientifically known as Arachnocampa luminosa, and although it is most spectacular when seen in caves, it’s common outside caves too, favouring damp, warm conditions with a good supply of food.

The photographs featured on these stamps have been taken by New Zealand photographer Joseph Michael, whose Luminosity series came to global attention in 2015. These stunning photographs were taken using long exposure techniques and were shot over many long nights deep in the glowworm caves of the North Island.

This visually striking stamp issue featured four gummed stamps as well as a $2.00 self-adhesive stamp. The stamps were printed using glow-in-the-dark ink to replicate the effect of glowworms in the wild - simply expose them to sunlight and then step into a dark space to see the stamps light up.

Celebrate this luminous species with glow-in-the-dark collectables

This issue included a miniature sheet and two first day covers. The first day cover included the four gummed stamps and the $2.00 self-adhesive stamp. Each of these collectables featured further imagery from Joseph Michael’s Luminosity series, with the miniature sheet first day cover also depicting the glowworm life cycle.

A dazzling die-cut presentation pack

The presentation pack was a must-have collectable from this special issue. The presentation pack cover was specially die-cut to replicate the mouth of a cave and contained further information about glowworms in New Zealand and their life cycle, provided by the Waitomo Caves Museum Society.

Get an in-depth look at the world of glowworms with the Limited Edition

The Limited Edition was the premium collectable in this issue and is essential for anyone wanting to learn more about these fascinating creatures. The Limited Edition was produced in limited numbers and contained stamp collectables exclusive to this issue, including a unique miniature sheet, plate blocks of the four stamps, colour separations of the $2.50 stamp, a set of gummed stamps and a special first day cover signed by the author, Rudi Schnitzler, entomologist.

Product listing for New Zealand Native Glowworms

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Mangawhitikau Cave' gummed stamp.

Mangawhitikau Cave, described by Sir David Attenborough as “astonishing”, is famous for its extensive display of glowworms. Tours depart from the Spellbound office located in the Waitomo Caves village and artificial lights are kept out during the tours so the glowworms can be viewed in their full glory.

$0.80
Single Stamp

Single $1.40 'Nikau Cave' gummed stamp.

Nikau Cave is located in Waikaretu, a sheep and cattle farming area approximately 90 minutes' drive southwest of Auckland. This delightful tourist cave was known to Māori and early settlers. Privately owned, the cave has no paths, handrails or lights. Tourists take torches and clamber up a streambed beneath stalactites, shawls and delicate straws.

$1.40
Single Stamp

Single $2.00 'Ruakurī Cave' gummed stamp.

Ruakurī was the ‘wildest’ of the early Waitomo tourist caves – with hidden waterfalls, ‘a ghost walk’, galleries and decorated chambers. It was named for the wild dogs (kurī) that lived in the cave entrance, which was used by Māori long before Europeans arrived.

$2.00
Single Stamp

Single $2.50 'Waipū Caves' gummed stamp.

The Waipū Caves are in a scenic reserve about 10 kilometres inland from the little boutique village of Waipū. They were first used as tourist caves in the 1870s, a decade before Waitomo Caves, when tourists were transported by horse and buggy.

$2.50
Single Stamp Single $2.00 'Ruakurī Cave' self-adhesive stamp. $2.00
Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled miniature sheet. $6.70
First Day Cover First day cover with four gummed stamps and one self-adhesive stamp affixed. $9.20
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with gummed miniature sheet affixed. $7.20
Self-adhesive Booklet Booklet of 10 x $2.00 self-adhesive stamps. $20.00
Presentation Pack

The presentation pack cover was specially die-cut to replicate the mouth of a cave and contains further information about glowworms in New Zealand and their life cycle, provided by the Waitomo Caves Museum Society. The pack contained a set of gummed stamps, first day cover and a miniature sheet.

Still available to purchase. Click here.

$24.90
Limited Edition

The Limited Edition was the premium collectable in this issue and was essential for anyone wanting to learn more about these fascinating creatures. The Limited Edition was produced in limited numbers and contained stamp collectables exclusive to this issue, including a unique miniature sheet, plate blocks of the four stamps, colour separations of the $2.50 stamp, a set of gummed stamps and a special first day cover signed by the author, Rudi Schnitzler, entomologist.

Still available to purchase. Click here.

$135.00

Technical information

Date of issue: 2 March 2016
Number of stamps: Four gummed and one self-adhesive stamp
Denominations: Gummed: 80c, $1.40, $2.00, $2.50; self-adhesive $2.00
Stamps and first day covers designed by: Hannah Stancliffe-White, New Zealand Post, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print Ltd by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours with synseal overgloss
Stamp size and format: 25mm x 50mm (vertical)
Paper type: Gummed: Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: Gummed: 14.4 x 14
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 1 March 2017.
First day covers remained on sale until 1 May 2016.