'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Weta

I think one of the most marvelous creatures in New Zealand is the Weta.

I have posted before about the Huhu beetle and its tasty larvae, but I think Weta Rulz!  And not just because of the association with a famous New Zealand company.

At last I have a good photo of one to share. Isn't she beautiful?  Don't be afraid, she is a gentle giant.


Weta* are very special creatures for many reasons.

1.  They are older than the dinosaurs.
2.  They have hardly changed for 100 million years (obviously a good design!)
3.  They are found only in New Zealand.
4.  The largest weta species (there are many) is the Giant Weta (imaginatively named) and one female has been recorded weighing three times heavier than a mouse.
5.  Tree Weta can bite and hiss, but most weta prefer just to raise their spiky back legs when they are threatened.  I made her cross so you can see her doing this in this pic:




7.  Some weta are carnivorous, some herbivorous, and some, like this lovely specimen, eat both plant material and insects.
8.  They are nocturnal, so people don't see them often.
9.  Weta's main predator was the (now rare) Tuatara lizard - a slow-moving reptile.  However with the coming of humans to New Zealand, rats, dogs and cats have found weta easy prey.  
10. Many weta species are endangered, and all are much rarer than they used to be.

So if you are ever lucky enough to see one, appreciate its ancient lineage, and don't step on it!

Added later:  Here are some wonderful pics of the larger members of the family.


* The plural of Weta, is Weta.  Like 'sheep' and 'fish' This is the same for all New Zealand native fauna.

22 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I love all the detail, and the tender appreciation, and the bit about the plural - wonder why that is? Is that how it is in the original language? It's a long time since forming new plurals that way was common in English.

    Thank you

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  2. Amazing! I had never heard of the weta before. If I might say so, considerably more attractive than Ralph Fiennes. Mind you would you want to be in aeroplane lavatory with a giant weta? "So how long have you worked for Air New Zealand?"....Cut the small talk baby!

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  3. Fascinating! Your blog is so educational. I really appreciate your photos and descriptions of your beautiful country.

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  4. Overall I have to say I like No.3 the best !

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  5. Emily - thank you! The Maori named weta of course. And use the same word for plural and singular. However if there are lots and lots, the Maori word is to repeat it, as in 'large numbers of weta' = 'wetaweta'

    YP, are you suggesting the weta is the cabin crew member? I'm sure ours are more attractive than that. But I did see a 'Yorkshire Airlines' advertisement recently, and the Dorises clearly went through no selection process for their beauty.

    Joking aside, I'm proud to be able to introduce you to something new. You have, I consider, a very broad general knowledge...

    Juliet - Thank you for your words. I love your arty bowling alley pic, and that reminds me, I haven't been bowling for ages. Must go again soon, it's fun!

    Silverback - The third picture? Why? Is it because my hand is further away? Truly, they are lovely creatures, and just back away slowly from you. Then lower their massive jaws and charge to the attack, hissing and stinging you repeatedly with their ovipositor until you are dead. That last sentence is a total lie.

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  6. ... and that would send the gritlets screaming sky high. i will not show it to them, otherwise new zealand is off limits. probably forever.

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  7. Grit! Welcome to the LVD! There are FAR worse things in Europe! New Zealand is (I think) the only place on earth that has not a single dangerous thing! No snakes, no bears, wolves, no scorpions, alligators, crocodiles, tigers, no nothing! Except a tiny shy Katipo spider that lives under driftwood on the beach and is so rare that no-one ever sees these days even when you want to show him to a biology class.

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  8. I guess I needed one more word in my comment. I meant I liked No.3 REASON the best !

    And I'm sure there are a few other danger-free countries - like Ireland for one.

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  9. Haha, I see what you mean Ian...
    And Ireland? - ok. I know I absolutely love the country. But are there not little vipers in Ireland? Or did they not make it over from the European continent?

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  10. Thanks Katherine
    I remember this little critter with fondness - always seemed such a gentle and intelligent creature...

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  11. The Weta are indeed beautiful creatures. In California we have something similar that is commonly called a "potato bug" but it's not as grand as the Weta.

    Thank you for introducing the Weta to me.

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  12. Katherine, it really is lovely...i'm just glad it lives on your blog and not mine!

    yorkshire airlines! hahaha! wait, is there really?

    xx lori

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  13. hi Katherine,
    thanks for stopping by the LAM,
    my initial reaction to Pablo Neruda was exactly as was yours. :-)


    the Weta. wow! indeed.
    what a wierd and wonderful creature.

    i'm not much of an insect fan, but i'm intrigued.

    {i was born and raised on the Lower East Side,
    and if you've ever visited NYC then you understand,
    if not, trust me, you don't want to understand}


    ears on the front legs, huh? strange.
    ok, i agree the Weta IS beautiful,
    as seen through curious eyes.
    o'course it takes someone special to point it out.


    thank you for another entertaining post,
    and please, keep 'em coming.


    by the by,
    are these things edible as well? - - yuck!, hope not. :-o

    ..
    .ero

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  14. Delwyn - glad to bring back good memories...

    Dan - I did a search on wiki, and your potato bugs or Jerusalem crickets do seem to be related to Weta. Thanks for that information.

    Lori - yes, there really is a (parody of) Yorkshire Airlines - "Go eh oup and away with Yorkshire Airlines!"
    Copy and past this:
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/285168/yorkshire_airlines/

    Sun - I pleased to be able to impress someone from the Lower East Side.
    I once was trying to drive from Jersey City to Babylon and it seemed perfectly sensible to go as directly as possible - i.e through Brooklyn. Except I got lost and had to ask my way three times - perhaps the locals were so amazed at my audacity to drive a metallic brown VW van with orange racing stripes (yes) with such confidence through Brooklyn, everyone was perfectly delightful and helpful, although I did feel very white for the first time in my life. I had no idea I shouldn't have driven there until I mentioned it to the people I was staying with in Babylon...

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  15. Hi Katherine,

    I just popped by from The Depp Effect, since I saw you had a post on weta. Being a bit of a bug lover myself, I had to come and have a look. Quite lovely, thank you!

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  16. Welcome to TLVD Bug! I've also a post on huhu and cicada too, if you are interested :-)

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  17. Now I have to go and find out what a huhu is........

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  18. I'm in Yorkshire and sadly there's no real Yorkshire Airlines - - the video's great though.
    No snakes in Ireland - - St Patrick's supposed to have chased them all out I think.
    I've never seen a weta before and I like it!

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  19. I know there's no Yorkshire Airlines - glad you liked the clip!
    And yes, Ian has informed me about St Patrick's good deed.
    Glad you like Weta, Daphne. Millions don't, unfortunately!

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  20. Anonymous31.5.09

    I try to save them where I can.

    But don't try to pick them up without protection.

    They scratch and bite.

    I did and was promptly scratched.

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  21. Oh, I'm sure they would much rather *not* be picked up anon! I know that cats play with them too - I'm glad there's one more person out there who tries to save them. Thanks for your comment!

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  22. As I've said before envy is not one of my worser sins (my use of the English language, however, is) but there are two things in New Zealand I have not seen in the wild and would so love to. One is a Weta and the other is a Bellbird (which sings constantly around me and sometimes from a tree 5 metres from The Cottage but always disappears as soon as I look for it).

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