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.
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.
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 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.
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)
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)