NZ native insects found at Canopy Tours

by | Nov 17, 2021 | Conservation, Rotorua Canopy Tours

We’re pretty lucky here to have so many incredible NZ native insect species – including some pretty unique invertebrates you can spot at Canopy Tours. New Zealand teems with thousands of different insects. With more than 90% of the insects found in New Zealand are unique to our country. There aren’t many other places in the world which have so many endemic species!

Because New Zealand has been isolated in the South Pacific Ocean for tens of millions of years, many of our species have evolved remarkably differently from their relatives overseas.

Check out some of our favourite NZ native insects found at Canopy Tours:

  1. Weta
  2. Cicadas
  3. Peripatus
  4. Pūriri moth
  5. Huhu beetle
  6. Giraffe weevil

1. Weta

Probably New Zealand’s most famous insect, the weta is one of our most striking and recognisable of our NZ native insects. They are well-known for their large size and are among the heaviest insects in the world! While they can look pretty frightening, weta are actually closely related to crickets and grasshoppers. They look kind of like giant grasshoppers but without wings.

Weta have been around long enough to see dinosaurs come and go and to evolve into more than 100 different species. All of them endemic to New Zealand! At Rotorua Canopy Tours in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve there are wetas of all shapes, sizes and species and we even have some weta hotels on tour.

NZ native insects weta
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2. Cicadas

The sound of a cicada will bring to mind the sounds of a hot summer for a lot of New Zealanders. Their loud chirping can be heard for 4 – 8 weeks between January and March. But, it’s just the males who sing to attract a mate. The female listens to them all and decides which one she likes. She will then click her wings at a certain part of the song for the match – how interesting is that? There are over 40 species of endemic cicadas in New Zealand.

NZ native insects at Canopy Tours
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3. Peripatus

Peripatus or ‘velvet worms’ are unusual caterpillar-like carnivorous creatures that are one of evolution’s ancient ‘missing links’. They are called ‘living fossils’ as they are remarkably unchanged from 500 million years ago. Because of all the Rotorua Canopy Tours conservation work that has been done you can now find these intriguing creatures in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve. One of our guides once found one that was 83mm long!

Peripatus native insects nz
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4. Pūriri moth

New Zealand’s largest moth is the green puriri moth (Aenetus virescens), which can only be found in the North Island. They have a wingspan up to 15cm and their lifecycle is super interesting. The nocturnal puriri moth spends the first five to six years of its life as caterpillar in a tree trunk until it emerges as a moth. Then it only lives about two days as it cannot eat – their purpose is to lay eggs.

Pūriri moth
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5. Huhu beetle

The huhu beetle (Prionoplus reticularis), a species of longhorn beetle, is the largest beetle in New Zealand. They are sometimes known as ‘haircutters’ because they have the unfortunate reputation of getting tangled in peoples hair and having to be cut out thanks to the tiny hooks that line their tiny legs.

These NZ native insects start off as the infamous huhu grub. A white larva that grow to 70mm long and love to carve holes into trees or in rotting wood as they eat at a frenetic pace. Traditionally, huhu grubs were enjoyed by Maori (they are especially tasty fried or roasted). They were also used as bait when fishing for eels. Each year at the Hokitika Wildfoods festival, cooked huhu grubs are on the menu. Give one a try if you’re brave enough!

Huhu beetle
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6. Giraffe weevil

The giraffe weevil or tuwhaipapa (Lasiorhynchus barbicornis) is a bit deceptive – it’s not a weevil at all, but an endemic beetle. These impressive beetles can grow up to 9cm long. They are unusual and look like something made out of leftover bits of broken toys. They are also sexually dysmorphic, which means that males and females look different from each other. The males antennae are near the tip of their snout while the females are about half way down.

Giraffe weevil
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So there you have some of our favourite NZ native insects. They can be spotted feeding on leaves or flowers, tunneling in wood or in the soil and ground cover. If you know where to look you might even see some of these amazing creatures on a Rotorua Canopy Tour in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve. Just talk to your guides to find where they might be hiding.

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