The Giant Weta comes from New Zealand. They aren’t “true crickets” (they can’t make noise) but they do resemble gigantic cartoon crickets. The Giant Weta is the world’s heaviest insect and can weigh up to 70 g (2.5 oz).
The name weta comes from the Maori word wetapunga, or “God Of Ugly Things”.
The Giant Weta was on the brink of extinction because rats introduced to New Zealand were killing them. But thanks to awesome conservation efforts, populations of the Giant Weta are flourishing again on Tiritiri Matangi Island and Motuora Island. (source) The quest to save the Weta is succeeding.
More than 300 Giant Weta are to be released in the Noises Islands of New Zealand to replenish the population. Auckland Zoo ectotherms team leader Don McFarlane says the insects will be six male and six female weta, to ensure gene diversity. “It’s almost like a dating service, moving the pairs around to ensure mating success” he says. (source)
This lovely lady is a famous Giant Weta a former park ranger took pictures of when he found her chilling in a tree. He fed her some carrot and turns out she really loves them. He didn’t want her to get indigestion though so he let her have a sensible portion then put her safely back up in her tree perch where he’d found her. (source)
More about the Weta: Like other insects, the Weta doesn’t have lungs. It breathes through its exoskeleton. It has little holes in its shell connected to tubes that carry oxygen throughout the insect’s body. The Weta is older than some dinosaurs. Fossils found from the Triassic Period (190 million years ago) look very similar to the modern day Weta living in New Zealand today. (source)
The Giant Weta is a docile, sweetheart of a bug. A Gentle Giant. It’s wonderful New Zealand is having real success saving them.