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Growing pains

16 JunExhibitions / Learning and Discovery

One of our cave weta was captured on camera shedding its skin, so our live exhibits keeper Mia is here to tell us a bit more about this shy, secluded species

Cave weta are pretty unique and have different features from other weta species. They hear by sensing vibrations and don’t have the hearing organs on their knees that other weta have. Cave weta are also much more timid than the more commonly seen tree weta (which is why you don’t see them as much). Cave weta don’t bite or sting and are not venomous, they are sweet precious scaredy babies that are delicate and beautiful and perfect.

Ahem.

weta shedding June16

They shed their exoskeleton regularly as they grow, and usually will eat most of the shed skin to get the nutrients back from it afterwards. The one in the photo looks really pale because its new exoskeleton hasn’t had time to harden fully yet.

We have more than 20 weta in our cave but they are tricky to spot at the moment because many of them are juveniles, they tend not to be active during the day, and they are pretty good at hiding.

Our weta have been mating since at least early February, and we have had an increase in the number of juveniles recently as well. Females use their ovipositor – which looks a bit like a stinger – to essentially inject the eggs into soft damp soil.

The eggs are supposed to hatch in December and January, so the juveniles we are seeing are probably from the eggs that were laid last year just getting big enough for us to be able to spot. They should reach the size of our current adults by the time they reach a year old and this year’s eggs start to hatch!