Cave weta: Available as a bronze
The New Zealand Cave weta of which there are about 60 species, has extremely long legs and antennae but a rather short body. They are non-aggressive weta which rely on an amazing skill at jumping to escape danger. Their leg spines are delicate in relation to tree and giant weta and the legs themselves are thin and spindly. Their antennae can be up to four times as long as their body. They feed as scavengers, picking up lichens and various pieces of organic matter. Some inhabit caves, while others live in damp bush or high in the alpine zone under stones.
Mahoenui Giant Weta (Deinacrida-demon grasshopper): Available as a bronze
Some of these creatures are New Zealands largest insects. They are rather slow and docile insects which lead solitary lives, camping by day under bark, in hideaways in vegetation or under stones. The hind legs which carry very large heavy spines, are raised above the head when the animal assumes the threat posture. When lowered the legs produce a clearly audible "tsit tsit" sound. They have survived here for 70 million years in much the same form as they are today. Their diet is largely vegetarian. Eleven species are recognised.
These are generally smaller weta which live in tunnels excavated in the soil. They enter their tunnels tail first and the threat posture involves raising the front legs and opening the jaws. They make no obvious sounds and lack ears. The hind legs have only delicate spines with an array of longer spines around the 'ankle'. Their diet is mainly carnivorous. Some 36 species is known.
Tree weta: Available as a bronze
These weta can be nearly as large as the giants but have important social components to their lives. They spend their day in tree holes. Males are aggressive and usually have larger heads than females. Like giant weta, they raise the heavily spined hind legs in the threat posture and produce a similar sound. Diet is omnivorous. Six species are known.
There are only two species to this group which has only recently been recognised. They are distinguished by the presence of long curved tusks projecting forward from the jaws in the male. Females look like ground weta. Both sexes can produce sounds like the tree weta and possess ears. Not much is known about their biology, other than the fact that the small Northland ( North Island ) tusked weta lives in tree holes much like a tree weta. The large Mercury Island tusked weta is a ground dweller in shallow retreats scooped out of the soil and covered over with leaves.
Giant Weta lead solitary lives but Tree weta are gregarious, snuggling together in larger holes. These social aggregations are not haphazard. Adult males are in charge, welcoming adult females as companions and tolerating juveniles,but enter another mature male and a territorial fight ensues. Usually the male with the bigger head wins.
Although they chew neatly and cleanly around the entrance, Weta do not actually excavate their own tunnels. All sorts of holes are used. The second-hand tunnel of a large wood-boring beetle such as a Huhu grub makes an excellent retreat, but they are equally at home in the folds of corrugated iron or any dry crevice on the outside of a building.
Or inside a gumboot.In the bush, you will find them inside hollow trees or in the hollow stems of just about any kind of plant. They enter head first, leaving the massive spiny hind legs blocking the passage to any intruder. In the evening, they back down the tunnel so that sense organs on their rear are able to assess the weather conditions. If everything seems right,they venture further out. Warm, damp, dark nights without a moon are preferred.