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White Footed Ants




Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Suborder: Ensifera
Superfamily: Stenopelmatoidea, Rhaphidophoroidea
Family: Anostostomatidae, Rhaphidophoridae

General Weta Information    Giant Weta    Poor Knights Weta    Wetapunga    

Stephens Island Weta    Kaikoura Weta    Nelson Alpine Weta    Tree Weta    Tusked Weta    

Ground Weta    Cave Weta    Grasshoppers    Katydids    Locusts    Wetas   Crickets

Wetas: General Information

The Weta, an insect native to New Zealand, is also referred to the King Cricket in South Africa and North America. They have related species located in Australia, Madagascar, and North, Central and South America. This large insect has the physical appearance between a cockroach and a cricket with large legs. They are found in alpine, forests, grasslands, caves, shrub lands and urban gardens. They are nocturnal and flightless. The female Weta will lay between 200 and 300 eggs in one sitting. These eggs hatch 3-5 months later. There are five major species of the Weta and most eat other invertebrates, with the exception of the Tree and Giant Weta which have evolved to eat mainly leaves, flowers and fruit. They bite, but most often inflict painful scratches. When approached by their predators, cats, hedgehogs, rats and humans, the Weta will raise its hind legs in the air and retreat. The Giant, Tree, Tusked and Ground Weta are grouped in the family Stenopelmatoidea with Leaf Rolling Crickets, and are most closely related to Jerusalem Crickets found in North America. The Cave Weta is grouped in the family Rhaphidophoridea along with Cave Crickets, Camel Crickets and Sand Treaders. They are not considered a major pest and are growing extinct in parts of New Zealand; however they are large enough to give someone a fright when first noticed. Below are the five major species of the Weta and their identifying marks.

Giant Weta
Picture of Giant Weta

There are eleven different species of the Giant Weta. They have a body length of four inches not including its legs and antennae. One giant Weta that was captured weighed a record 70 g making it the heaviest insect in the world and heavier than the sparrow. The giant Weta is not very social and is classified in the genus Deinacrida which means terrible grasshopper. They live underground and under rocks and floor debris during the day and hunts for food at night. When disturbed, they get very aggressive, hisses, raises its body and sways from side to side. The giant Weta is so large it is unable to jump. 

Other species of the giant Weta are the Poor Knights Weta, Wetapunga, Stephens Island Weta, Kaikoura Weta and the Nelson Alpine Weta. 

The Poor Knights Weta is 8 inches in size and located on Poor Knights Islands off the coast of New Zealand. They live in trees and lay their eggs in the ground. They are nocturnal and herbivorous and listed as a threatened species.

The Wetapunga is a stoutly built “cricket” with a large head and sturdy spines on its back legs. They are found on Little Barrier Island off the coast of New Zealand. They eat plants and fungi and are a threatened species. The name Wetapunga means “got of ugly things” or “monsters of the night”.

The Kaikoura Weta was discovered in 1988 and lives on the high rocky surfaces of the Kaikoura mountains in New Zealand.

The Nelson Alpine Weta is the smallest of the giant Wetas weighting around 7 grams.

Tree Weta
Picture of Tree Weta

The Tree Weta is mostly found in urban settings. They mainly live in holes in trees formed by beetle larvae. A large hole will hold up to ten females and one male. These nocturnal insects eat plants and small insects. Males have a larger jaw than the female and hiss and bite when threatened. The tree Weta has ears on its legs used to sense vibrations. Females have a large ovipositor that resembles a stinger. There are seven species of the Tree Weta: Auckland Tree Weta, Wellington Tree Weta, H. trewicki, H. temorata, H. ricta, West Coast Bush Weta, and the Mountain Stone Weta.

The Auckland Tree Weta has a body plate behind its head that is a pinkish white color. They communicate by moving their thighs against the sides of their abdomen like grasshoppers and crickets. The Auckland Tree Weta shelters in trees, in moth tunnels or in large wood-borer galleries they have enlarged. They are found on the North Island in New Zealand. Adults have large black heads and females have a brown trim around their head.
(Picture of Auckland Tree Weta)

The Wellington Tree Weta is identified by its large brown head. They also have white pad behind their claws. 

The H. trewicki is found in Hawkes Bay and looks similar to the Wellington, but has a pale shield shaped structure directly behind its head and also has dark black lines on its body.

Tusked Weta

The Tusked Weta is identified because the males have long curved tusks projecting from their jaws. They are used for pushing opponents around. Females are similar to the ground Weta. The tusked Weta eats worms and insets. There are three species of the tusked Weta: Northland tusked Weta an insect that resides in tree holes, the Middle Island Tusked Weta, an insect that lives in the ground and covers its burrow with leaves and the Raukumara Tusked Weta that was discovered in 1996 and is not endangered.
(Tusked Weta Picture)

Ground Weta

The Ground Weta is the smallest of all Wetas and hides in burrows in the ground during the day concealing the exit of their hole. They hunt at night and eat invertebrates and fruit. They do not have ears on the front of their legs like other Wetas. They also do not have the spiky back legs like other Wetas. To attract mates, they drum on their abdomens.  (Ground Weta picture)

Cave Weta

There are sixty species of the Cave Weta. They are identified by their extra long antennae, long legs and deafness like the ground Weta. They are grouped in the family with cave crickets, camel crickets and sand treaders, making them a distant cousin to the other Wetas. The Cave Weta can live up to seven years. They live in dark places under longs and under houses.  (Cave Weta picture)

Our thanks to Lani Powell for research and writing which 
made this information page possible!

Pest Control     Pest Control Supplies    Animals and Pests 

General Weta Information    Giant Weta    Poor Knights Weta    Wetapunga    

Stephens Island Weta    Kaikoura Weta    Nelson Alpine Weta    Tree Weta    Tusked Weta    

Ground Weta    Cave Weta    Grasshoppers    Katydids    Locusts    Wetas   Crickets