Wetas: Nighttime aliens or misunderstood critters?
When guests sign up to our Tawharanui ecotours, they generally expect to see kiwi, kaka, morepork, and other fantastic New Zealand birds. What they don’t always expect is an encounter with a New Zealand weta.
And when someone does come face to face with these leggy invertebrates, we find that they fall into one of two categories – either totally fascinated, or a little creeped out!
Two of the main types of weta in the country, the cave weta, and the tree weta can be found on a trip to Tawharanui, although you really have to be looking, as they can be difficult to spot.
The tree weta are the more common type, and can be found in garden and bush areas throughout most of New Zealand. They are typically 4-6 centimetres long, and tend to congregate in groups as they seek out berries and leaves. While the weta (specifically, the males) will often fight amongst themselves, they will not attack or harm humans in any way, despite their ‘creepy crawly’ appearance!
Cave weta are also nocturnal, although it’s not impossible to see them during the day. This type have extremely long antennae and long legs, so can look a little like strange spiders to anyone who is unfamiliar with this New Zealand endemic species.
Aside from cave and tree wetas, there are also giant, ground, and tusked weta dotted about New Zealand. There are 70 species amongst the entire group, and 16 of those are at risk, as natural predators such as birds and reptiles, as well as habitat destruction by humans, threaten them.
Together, these invertebrates are amongst the country’s iconic flora and flauna – regardless of whether you think they are either fascinating or freaky.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist