“Ew, Mum, there’s a cockroach in my room!” screeched my daughter.
“Is it big one?” I shouted from the kitchen. Roaches can be huge here and my rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t fit under a glass tumbler, there’s no way I’m going anywhere near it; those things can move bloody fast.
I went over to her room.
“Where is it?” I asked from the doorway, hesitantly checking the ceiling above my head and the floor in front of my feet.
“There,” she whined. “By the sliding doors.”
I walked over to the doors, stepped outside and looked at where she was pointing.
“That’s not a roach,” I said ,breathing a sigh of relief. “That’s a wētā.”
Wētās are native to New Zealand and have been around long enough to see dinosaurs come and go. During their 190 million years on the planet, these frightening-looking insects have evolved into over 100 species most of which you won’t find anywhere else on Earth. The name wētā comes from the Maori name wētāpunga which means ‘god of ugly things.’
There are 5 main types of wētā in New Zealand: the docile Giant wētā (can grow to the length of a human hand and is actually on the verge of extinction thanks to rats), the Cave wētā, the Tree wētā, the Tusked wētā, and the Ground wētā.
Wanna fun fact? The New Zealand Alpine wētā, freezes solid in winter and then thaws out in the spring.
Sounds very much like my life in West House…
The little lady in the photos is a Tree wētā; the ridiculously long antennae are the giveaway. And we knew it was female because it had a small head and mandibles, as well as an ovipositor that I mistook for a stinger.
My husband helpfully put his hand in the next photo to show the size of her. As soon as his hand came near, she placed her left antenna on top of it and started feeling around clearly trying to work out whether it posed a threat or not.
Both male and female wētā have strong mandibles so you need to be careful picking them up if you want to relocate them. They’re not poisonous and have no stinger so aside from a nasty pinch, they’re pretty harmless.
Just ugly. Apparently.
Tree wētā and Cave wētā can jump quite far, as you would expect from a cricket-looking creature but a Giant wētā’s jumping ability is curtailed by it’s size and so you don’t have to worry about one landing on your face as you’re hanging out the washing. To be honest, if one of these landed anywhere near me, I’d never leave the house again.
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