family Anostostomatidae, Rhaphidophoridae
The wētā is New Zealand’s most spectacular insect. It belongs to the same family as grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, and its several species include the cave wētā, giant wētā and tree wētā. Best known is the tree wētā, which is often found in rotten logs, old tree trunks, wood piles and the odd unsuspecting gumboot (see icon 13). The male wētā has a large head and appears fierce, but while it can bite it is otherwise harmless. The giant wētā has a body up to 100mm long, and one gigantic specimen – tipping the scales at 71g – has been acclaimed the world’s heaviest insect. In recent years, this ferocious-looking invertebrate has lent its name to Weta Workshop, the award-winning special effects company that has worked on such movies as Peter Jackson’s (see icon 54) The Lord of the Rings trilogy and his remake of King Kong. The latter movie features outlandishly large wētā in fearsome form.