Weta

Lots of people really don’t like creepy, crawly things but they can be pretty groovy.
Look at them up close and you'll discover where movie directors get some of their ideas for weird creatures!

Wetapunga: God of Ugly Things

The Little Barrier Island giant weta or Wetapunga is the biggest weta of them all and weighs up to 71 grams. That’s three times heavier than a mouse! The name Wetapunga means god of ugly things but hasn’t stopped rats and other predators almost wiping it out! It is now only found on Little Barrier Island.
 

Quick Facts

• The weta is only found in New Zealand and is so old it has outlived the dinosaurs.

• Weta are large by insect standards. Some of the giant weta are enormous and are amongst the heaviest insects in the world

• The weta is sometimes called the dinosaur of the insect world

• The weta is more primitive than the tuatara. The weta has changed very little in the past 100 million years.

• Weta have their ears on their front knees and can feel the vibrations of noises around them.

• You can tell a male and female weta apart because females have a long ovipositor, which looks a bit like a stinger, which they use to lay eggs.

Types of Weta

There are five different types of weta – tree weta, cave weta, giant weta, tusked weta and ground weta. All together there are over 100 different species of weta.

Cave weta

 
Cave Weta, Mike Aviss


There are 60 species of Cave Weta.
• They are mostly found in caves, which is a good place to hide from predators like rats, but they can also be found in other dark places such as under houses and logs.
• Cave weta have big back legs and can jump up to two metres!
• The cave weta has very long antennae and legs. It uses it’s antennae to feel around in the dark.
• The cave weta can live up to seven years.

Ground Weta


Ground weta, Sherley Gregory

There are 36 species of Ground Weta
• The Ground weta cannot hear you coming because it does not have ears on its front legs, like other weta .
• It is the smallest weta and lives in tunnels in the ground .
• Like the Tusked weta, the Ground weta is mainly carnivorous.
• The Ground weta looks a lot like the Tree weta but is smaller.
• It does not have spiky back legs like the Tree weta.

Giant Weta


Giant weta, Photo: J Kendrick

There are 11 species of Giant Weta
• The Giant weta is a docile creature and does not kick or bite. To ward off predators (like you and me) it raises its spiky back legs
• The gentle giant of the insect world, the Giant weta prefers a vegetarian diet
• The Giant weta often lives under rocks and bush floor debris
• The giant weta is soooo heavy that it cannot jump
• Giant weta are endangered and are protected by the Department of Conservation.

Tree Weta


Wellington Tree Weta. Photo: Brian Sheppard

There are 6 species of tree weta
• The tree weta is sometimes known as the bush weta
• The tree weta is the most common type of weta and usually makes its home in the holes of trees
• The male tree weta is quite aggressive and it will fight another male weta
• It hisses and bites when threatened
• The tree weta has a varied diet and will eat both plants and other insects (this means that it is omnivorous)
• The male weta tends to be quite a hit with the ladies. One male often lives with up to ten females

Argh! There’s a weta in my house!

If you find a weta at home, it will most likely be a tree weta.
Remember to put it somewhere safe after you have looked at it and please don't kill it.
The male tree weta bite can be a little painful - but there is no reason to be afraid of it, especially if you compare it to the size of humans!
 

Tusked Weta

There are 3 species of tusked weta - the Northland tusked weta, Middle Island tusked weta and Raukumara tusked weta. They are all protected species and are very rare.

• Mainly carnivorous, the tusked weta likes eating earthworms and beetles
• It is a good tree climber
• The Northland Tusked Weta likes to live in tree holes but the Middle Island Tusked Weta prefers to live on the ground and seems reluctant to climb unless chased
• The Tusked Weta can leap up to one metre.
• Huge tusks grow from the jaw of the male Tusked Weta but it does not use them for biting. The tusks are used for pushing and shoving his opponent, butting him like an angry ram
• The female tusked weta does not have tusks like the male and is quite similar in appearance to the ground weta
• The Middle Island Tusked Weta is the most endangered species of weta. It was discovered on Middle Mercury Island by a government scientist in 1970.