One of the largest species of insects on Earth is the giant weta, a creature that outsizes nearly all other bugs and even some species of rodents. The insect is a native of New Zealand, and is the namesake for Weta Workshop, the prop and special effects house that worked on the Lord of the Rings films.
The weta’s name is something of an honorific. In the Maori language, “wetapunga” means “the God of All Ugly Things”. This is rather accurate when you look at the massive insect: it’s essentially a gigantic grasshopper.
This is also reflected in the name of the weta’s genus, deinacrida, translates to “terrible grasshopper”. While we wouldn’t call the weta “terrible” or “ugly” to its face, the intense naming speaks to how much respect the bug commands.
While the weta isn’t exactly the biggest insect on the planet (that honor is contested by a number of species), it is certainly the heaviest of insects.
It can weigh up to 2.5 ounces, a massive amount for an insect. This puts them as being heavier than many species of small rodents, like mice and gerbils.
Despite their visual similarity to grasshoppers, giant weta are incapable of jumping. Due to their massive size, they’re not able to leap or fly like many of their cousins in the insect world.
Tree weta, for instance, are much lighter and are capable of jumping and gliding. The giant weta, however, relies on its massive size to fend off predators, and has no need for fleeing in most scenarios.
The giant weta is far from the only weta bug in the world. In New Zealand, there are over 70 cousin species of weta that are closely related to the giant weta.
These range from similarly massive insects to smaller, more normal-looking bugs. Tree and cave weta are common in the wilderness of New Zealand, while tusked weta strikes an imposing figure.
The giant weta’s favorite food, as well documented in a viral image, is carrots. A popular image shows researcher Mark Moffett feeding an extremely large specimen of giant weta a carrot, as the insect happily chomps down on the vegetable.
Since the image became popular in 2011, it has become common to see insect enthusiasts feeding the massive bugs their preferred snack.
Above all, weta are fascinating mascots of New Zealand, showing that big personality can be found even in insects.