Wetas exist worldwide, mainly in the Southern Hemisphere, but they attained their greatest diversity in New Zealand, where about 70 species can be found in habitats as diverse as forests, caves and urban gardens. Some weta are among the world’s largest and heaviest insects. They resemble flightless grasshoppers but with enlarged, spiny hind legs.
They occupy the niche filled by rats elsewhere. Introduced predators including the rat, cat and hedgehog are causing some populations to decline and about 15 species are now considered to be at risk. The weta’s ears are on its front legs near the knee joints.
Photo courtesy of Damon McKinlay.