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Giant Wē

(Deinacrida heteracantha )

Did you know that the giant wētā is the biggest of the NZ wētā? It is also the heaviest insect in the world! The wētāpunga weighs more the then average house mouse or sparrow.

Follow along, learn about our wētāpunga, and get into all the activities!

The content and resources on this page have kindly been put together with the support  of the team at

- Koru Native Wildlife Centre - 

Make sure you go check them out !



Giant Wētā are part of the ground wētā group, meaning (as you might have guessed!) they like to hang out on the ground.  During the day they hide away under dead leaves and foliage to sleep, meaning they are nocturnal.

At night they come out to explore and eat. Unfortunately, the Wētāpunga are a threatened species, so you can only find them on a few select remote pest-free sanctuary islands, including Maud Island right here in Marlborough.



Image Credit - Conservation Kids NZ Event Image


Throughout this page you'll find some fun activities and resources you can explore

at home with your whānau and friends.

Some of these resources have been put together with the help of our fantastic local organisations.

A huge thank you to those people who have helped put these together for us,

we appreciate your support!

Don't forget to share your activities with us, either tag us on social media

or email them to us at


The Māori called the giant weta "Wētāpunga", which has sometimes been translated into English as the "God of ugly things". On the West Coast, wētā were referred to as taipo (devils of the night).

Māori have long known the importance and significance of the wētā in the forest ecosystem, and as an important link in the food chain.


Te Ao


ART - Art of Observation

The Art Of Observation


Every good scientist needs to have a keen eye! A great way to practice this is trying to draw something from memory.


Have a go at the activity below and test your skills. Set a timer for five minutes and sit and observe a weta (real or a picture of one) until your five minutes is up and then try drawing the rest of the wētā (on the PDF below) from memory.

You can even use the image below or any of the images on this page or one you found yourself. Good luck!

Lets Become Scientists Weta .png
Click the image to download the PDF sheet!
Screenshot 2021-12-15 124842.png

Image Credit - Conservation Kids NZ Event Image

Giant Wētā are only found here in New Zealand, meaning they are endemic.  They can be found hiding out during the day in dead foliage such as the drooping dead fronds of punga (tree ferns), nīkau palms or tī kōuka (cabbage trees). At night they explore the ground of our forests, feeding on native vegetation on the forest floor. 

Sadly, you can't find giant wētā in just any native forest around NZ.  There are several facilities around Aotearoa who help breed the wētāpunga, though, including our local Koru Native Wildlife Centre! 



CRAFTS - Build a Wētā Puppet

Wētā Puppet

Te Rā o Ngā Tamariki - Children's Day website have a neat wētā puppet activity. Click on the image to the right and you can download the PDF and have a go at making your very own wētā puppet friend!



& Diet

Giant wētā once played the role (or 'filled the niche') of the 'rodent' before land mammals arrived.  The average female giant wētā is larger than the male, weighing up to 35grms on average.

Giant wētā are mostly herbivores - meaning they eat mostly plant matter. Giant weta, however, have also been known to eat some small insects. A giant wētā may eat large leaves like the karaka, karamu, māmāngi, māhoe, and kohekoh.


Image Credit - Otago Museum

GAMES - Wētāpunga Games 

Grab some of your friends or whānua and have a go at the Predator Game.

Learn the effect that predators have on our wētāpunga.

Weta Predator Game 


This game helps to demonstrate the effect that different predators have on our wētā population.


You can also add in some cool wētā 'helping hands' to see how this can also affect our wētā population.

Click on the PDF to find out how to play!


If you give this game a go with your class or some friends we would love to hear all about it!


Image Credit - Conservation Kids NZ Event Image

A female giant wētā can lay between 200-300 eggs in her lifetime. She lays her eggs inside curled up dead leaves or on rotten logs. 

These eggs take about 125 days to hatch and the nymphs (baby weta) come out looking like tiny mini adult weta. These nymphs will take, on average, two years to fully mature - the female wētā will start breading 1-2 months after reaching maturity. 



ACTIVITY - Test Your Knowledge

Test your knowledge - Wētā Parts


Have a go at testing your knowledge of wētā body parts.

Click on the image below to download the quiz as a PDF and write in your answers!

Name the parts of a weta .png
Click the image to download the quiz!
Click the wēt to download the answers.


Crazy Facts!

Each giant wētā takes about 2 years to reach full growth. During that time they can go through up to 11 instar stages!

An instar stage means they shed their entire exoskeleton and molt their old skin/shell to make room for a growing body.

A wētā's ears are actually on their front legs... not on their head! How strange is that!?


Image Credit - Conservation Kids NZ Event Image

Other Wētāpunga Resources 

Below you will find links to other Weta resources, click the images to take you to the websites. Check them out!

How to Draw a Wētāpunga 

by Auckland Zoo


There Is a Weta on my Sweater 

by Dawn McMillian


DOC  - Toyota Kiwi Guardian Activity

Why not have a go at making your own Wētā motel


Although the Toyota Kiwi Guardian programme has now finished and you can no longer claim the medals.

The activates are still a fantastic way for your tamariki to help support our conservation and native species.  


Below is a link to the "Build a Wēta Motel" activity instructions!

Have a go at building your very own Wēta motel and put it in your backyard,

you never know who might be living there.  

Click the image to download a PDF Instruction sheet to help you buld a weta motel.

Image Credit - Conservation Kids NZ Event Image 

Because wētāpunga are a nice big insect, they make a great protein filled snack to some common predators, including rats, mice, hedgehogs and even dogs.  Humans are also unfortunately a threat to the giant wētā, as we often remove or disturb the habitat that they live in.

Luckily there are lots of ways we can help protect our wētā by helping with predator control, being responsible pet and animal owners and supporting breeding programs!




There are many ways you can help protect our giant wētā and our other native species too!

  • Be a responsible pet owner. Keep your cat inside at night. Keep your dog on a lead when walking it in the bush and only take your dog into areas they are allowed. Many DOC and national park areas do not allow dogs due to the threat on the wildlife.

  • Help with predator control in your own backyard, or with a local community project, like Picton Dawn Chorus or Rarangi Dawn Chorus right here in Marlborough!

What YOU can do!

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Image Credit - Predator Free 2050

Visit a Wētāpunga - Giant Wētā

Check out a real live wētā and more at the Koru Native Wildlife Centre ! 


Wētāpunga Gallery 
Images from some of our Wē events

2022 Giant Weta Event

2020 Giant Weta Event

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