Did you know that the biggest of New Zealand’s wētā is the heaviest insect in the world that weighs more than an average mouse?
The heaviest wētā ever recorded was a female of the aptly named Giant Wētā species that weighed 71g. With that hefty size, it’s not surprising that it is believed wētā have been around longer than the dinosaurs.
Wētā are fascinating, spectacular-looking insects which are endemic to New Zealand. There are five broad groups of wētā: Tree, Cave, Giant, Ground and Tusked wētā.
Here at Koru Wildlife Breeding Centre we breed Giant Wētā. These wētā are endangered in the wild, and most of them only survive on protected islands.
Weta nymph (young one) sleeping in a curled up leaf.
Luckily, wētā do particularly well in captivity and our breeding programme has been very successful, with hundreds of nymphs (baby wētā) being hatched and raised here within a single season. The biggest challenge for us is finding the minuscule nymphs among the foliage, to keep up with how many we have!
Once big enough, many of our wētā are released into controlled wilderness areas, such as the predator-free Puangiangi Island in the outer Marlborough Sounds.
Wētā are naturally herbivorous in the wild but also eat insects, fruit and berries.
They are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats, from forests, caves, grassland or shrub, depending on what type of wētā they are.
Here at Koru Wildlife Breeding Centre, our Giant Wētā prefer to reside in rotting logs, tree hollows or holes under stones or branches. We supply our wētā with all their favourite woody habitats, as well as a regular supply of fresh native foliage, some of which we grow ourselves.