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Archive for 'weta'

Dinosaur of the Insect World #travel #NewZealand

The weta – it’s a large and primitive insect, native to New Zealand. The reason I chose to write about wetas today is so more people know what they are. When I used a weta reference in my book Janaya, my editor didn’t know what I was talking about and I had to rewrite slightly to describe a weta as a prehistoric cricket-like insect.

Tree Weta, New Zealand

There are five broad groups of weta:

1. Tree weta
2. Ground weta
3. Cave weta
4. Giant weta
5. Tusked weta

Wetas are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats including grassland, scrub land, forests and caves. They live under stones and in rotten logs or in pre-formed burrows in trees.

They are mainly herbivores in the wild but are known to eat other insects. They can bite but are not poisonous. Species of weta are still being discovered and several are endangered. In the wild, they were traditionally eaten by the tuatara (a prehistoric reptile native to NZ) but these days many are destroyed by rats, cats and dogs and of course, humans encroaching on their habitat.

The weta sheds its exoskeleton when moulting.

At 18 months the male weta selects a female and they spend time together in the male’s territory. (Romance in the insect world!)

At around two years old, the female will lay 100 – 300 eggs. The parents die before the weta eggs hatch 3 – 5 months later.

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand is currently involved in weta breeding programs and translocation to safe sites such as protected islands like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The weta respond well to a captive breeding program.

The following video is of a giant weta.

I’ve never seen a giant weta but have personal experience with both tree and cave wetas. We often find tree wetas in our garden and will return them to live in peace. They can nip and look creepy but I don’t mind them.

My experience with cave wetas is a bit more spooky. When I was a kid, my girlfriend lived on a farm with limestone caves. It was a favorite pastime to visit the caves and wander through them with a candle and maybe a torch to search for stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms. When I think about our cave visits now, I can see how dangerous it was, but for us it was an adventure – an hour or two of wandering through pristine caves. One day we discovered a new tunnel and were all set to charge into it to explore. I happened to shine the torch over the ceiling and it was covered with huge cave wetas! I let out a screech and dropped the torch, and we all decided to explore another part of the cave. I also took to checking my gumboots carefully and shaking vigorously before I put my feet in them. This lasted for a few weeks until the initial horror passed. I’ve never been bitten by a weta, but I’m always careful not to get too close either. I can appreciate them from a distance.

How are you with insects? Do you like them or hate them with a passion? Do you have any insect stories to tell? What do you think of New Zealand’s weta?

A Weta House in a Rimu Tree

We visited relations during the weekend, and one of them keeps a weta house in their garden. She says it’s so the wetas don’t jump out at her while she’s in the garden.

Rimu tree

This is a native rimu tree and where the wetas live. The rimu tree is very cool. You can’t tell from this picture but the leaves are actually long green strands, sort of like coarse hair.

Weta House

This is the weta house, perched in the branches of the rimu tree. Hubby took it out of the tree and opened it for me to see the wetas inside.

Weta House Open

You can see the wetas inside. When hubby opened the house, one fell out. We picked it up on a stick, took photos and then returned it to the house.

Weta

And this is a close up of a weta. They’re very cool and quite big. The weta is native to New Zealand.

What do you think – cool or totally gross?

Inland Island: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

During our recent trip to Wellington we visited the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. As the name suggests, it’s a special sanctuary for some of our endangered native birds. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might break during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.

Pest free fences, Karori Sanctuary

These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.

Some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife has been released in the pest-free area including brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds to name a few.

On entry to the sanctuary staff checked my bag for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free! I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops searching for birds.

Lower dam, Karori Sanctuary

We sighted saddlebacks and bellbirds, lots of tuis and fantails as well as some kaka (NZ variety of parrot). I’d never seen kaka up close so was fascinated to see them at the feeding stations.

Kaka, Karori Sanctuary

This photo shows two kaka. They’re a green parrot and blend in quite well with the trees, although they’re easy enough to spot because they make an awful screechy noise.

I would have loved to see a tuatara but since it was overcast they were all in their burrows, but we saw native fish and green geckos along with lots of our songbirds.

They also do a nocturnal tour where you can hear the evening song before the birds go to sleep and then go out hunting for the nocturnal kiwi. Maybe we’ll do this during another time. I’d highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary, if you’re ever down this end of the world.