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Published on 18th June 2022 by staff

Giant Wētā

Giant wētā or Deinacrida is a genus in the wētā (Anostostomatidae) family, consisting 11 insect species, all native to New Zealand. Wētās are generally large, cricket-like insects, and the species belonging the the giant wētā genus are distinctly larger than others in the family. They are found to be less social as well.

Their genus name Deinacrida has been derived from the Greek words for ‘terrible cricket’, referring to their size. Ten out of the eleven species are considered at risk of extinction, and are protected by Law in New Zealand.

Giant Weta
Deinacrida

Scientific Classification

Class: Insecta

Order: Orthoptera

Suborder: Ensifera

Family: Anostostomatidae

Subfamily: Deinacridinae

Genus: Deinacrida

Species

  • Herekopare wētā (D. carinata
  • Scree wētā (D. connectens)
  • Bluff wētā (D. elegans)
  • Poor Knights giant wētā (D. fallai)
  • Little Barrier Island giant wētā or wētāpunga (D. heteracantha)
  • Mahoenui giant wētā (D. mahoenui)
  • Kaikoura giant wētā (D. parva)
  • Mt Cook giant wētā (D. pluvialis)
  • Cook Strait giant wētā (D. rugosa)
  • Giant mole wētā (D. talpa)
  • Mt Arthur giant wētā (D. tibiospina)
Giant Weta Cricket
Giant Weta Image

What Do They Look Like

They can grow up to 4 inches (10cm) in size, without counting the antennae and legs. Weighing around 1.2-1.4 oz (35-40 gms), these giant insects can be larger and heavier even than some small rodents. The Little Barrier Island giant wētā is largest among all the giant wētās.

One female, carrying eggs, weighed 4.47 oz (70gm), which is even heavier than a sparrow, making it one of the largest and heaviest insect ever recorded.

The color varies between species, but they are mostly different shades of brown.

Giant Weta Insect
Giant Weta Pictures

Distribution: Offshore islands in New Zealand; the mainland populations have been wiped out by introduced rodents, mostly rats.

Habitat: Grasslands, forests, shrublands, and caves where they dig holes in trees, logs, or live under stones

Diet: Plant seeds, fruits, flowers and leaves; they prefer native plants having large leaves, like karamu, māmāngi, and karaka. They are also know to love carrots.

Do They Bite/Sting: Yes; with powerful mandibles, they are capable of inflicting painful bites

Lifespan: 6-9 months after reaching adulthood

Predators: Rodents like rats, hedgehogs, and various mustelids, as well as cats, birds, and lizards

Life Cycle

Giant Weta Bug

Upon reaching adulthood, the females mate, and lay eggs through the rest of their lives, laying around 100-300 eggs in total. The eggs are laid in the soft forest floor, and they hatch into ‘instars’ – the next developmental stage in their life.

They go through multiple instar stages and molting to reach their adult size and weight. It can take up to 2 years for them to reach aduldhood from the egg stage.

Image Source: i.pinimg.com, content.eol.org, science.org, mentalfloss.com, visitzealandia.com, britannica.com

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