Today’s insect of the day is none other than the Deinacrida heteracantha or commonly known as the wetapunga. The weta is in the order Orthoptera and the family Anostostomatidae. The weta is native to New Zealand is can be found on Little Barrier Island, an island the lies off the northeastern coast of New Zealand. Wetapunga comes from the Maori language meaning “God of Ugly Things.” The giant weta is one of the largest insects on earth that can weigh as heavy as 70 grams, however its weight averages around 30 grams. The giant weta also averages around 70-80 millimeters long. The giant weta eggs are laid in the soil and are around 7 millimeters long and 2.5 millimeters wide, they are hemimetabolous. Females use ovipositors to lay about 50 millimeters deep in the soil. Females can only produce a limited amount of eggs. The giant weta is classified as vulnerable because of population declines and restricted distribution. The giant weta is a massive cricket white a large broad body and a round head with very short mandibles. This species is wingless and surprisingly is not able to jump due to the body structure and weight, which also makes this insect very slow moving and quiet. As for lifestyle this fearsome looking insect may look menacing, but it has a very docile nature. The giant weta is an herbivore and feeds on the leaves of the many trees on Little barrier island. It is a prey to animals like; rats, the kingfisher bird and geckos. For defensive measures this insect has a very hard exoskeleton and spines running down its legs.
When being preyed on by predators this insect uses its hind legs and abdomen to make a hissing noise. There are over 70 species of weta in New Zealand. Its close relatives include the carnivorous tusked weta, tree weta, and the cave weta. The wetapunga are now bred in captivity. Some conservation groups have begun breeding them to increase species’ numbers. Fossils were found from 190 million years ago show similarities to the weta that inhabited New Zealand. The life span of the Wetapunga can live up to 2 years. The giant weta are nocturnal and can be found in many different climates. Most are found in caves and burrows but many have been spotted in rotting logs, trees and out in the open in grasslands on Little Barrier island. Cool facts and features of the giant weta include; having ears on the legs. It breathes through its exoskeleton. They are known to love carrots and ts close extinction is primarily due to rats. This magnificent beast is an amazing sight if spotted and all are recommended to help keep their habit safe and clean so the endangered species is preserved.
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