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.
- 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)
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.
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
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.
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