Lockdown Wētā Hotels

A blog post by Emma

Lockdown 2020

In March last year, New Zealand was in its first lockdown because of COVID-19. Tom and I had been due to head back to England but couldn’t. We were lucky enough to have work we could do from home (I had a lab set up in our garage for my NZ work and Tom had UK desk-based work). In our free time, we also had a long list of projects and renos to occupy us, as well as our almost one year old son, Ezra.

One of the many projects we were excited about was to make some insect hotels for the critters in our garden. A few months prior, we had picked up a sheet of clear Perspex, but had never been able to find the time to do it. Now was that time!

We were inspired to do this project because of the many wētā we found hiding underneath the invasive English Ivy that we were removing from our trees.

Wētā – NZ’s Giant Flightless Crickets

For those who haven’t heard of ‘wētā’, they a group of about 70 species of giant flightless crickets that are endemic to New Zealand. They fall into the families Anostostomatidae and Rhaphidophoridae, some species of which are amongst the heaviest insects in the world. The ones we were finding in our garden were tree wētā (Hemideina sp.).

Building Our Wētā Hotels

As we were removing some of their habitat, we wanted to mitigate that loss by making the insect hotels. These hotels are also a great way for people to engage with the wildlife inhabiting their gardens – and fantastic way for our ecologist-in-training, Ezra, to get a closer look.

Tom and Ezra got to work building them using timber cut-offs from other projects and the Perspex we had purchased earlier. Ezra loved being a part of the process, his favourite thing seeing the drill in action.

Tom measuring up the hotels

Click to zoom in

Lockdown 2021

Now, flash forward a year and a few months, and we’re up one child (Hey, Baby Reid!) and we’re back in lockdown again as the Delta variant has managed to sneak in through the border.

During the time between these two lockdowns, our hotels have been gaining more and more residents. The uptake was slow at first whilst the word was getting out there, but now they have many regular patrons.

Yesterday, as has become our weekly tradition, we went around the garden checking all the hotels. The residents range from spiders to bush cockroaches, through to our most impressive group of residents, a harem of tree wētā .

This hotel houses lots of bush cockroaches which often scamper out when you open it. Ezra is trying to find the ones that ran into the leaf litter.
Heading up the path to one of our big native tōtara trees.

Anyone home?

What’s inside?

A harem of tree wētā!

I’ll leave you with a little learning story I put together for Ezra’s kindy back in March this year, almost a year from when we first put the hotels up.

Ezra’s Kindergaten Story

From 4th March 2021

Today, Mummy, Daddy and I checked the wētā boxes in our garden. I helped make the boxes with Daddy when I was not even a year old. Whenever I’m in the garden, I always say, “Box! Box!” and find them on the trees.

We had a wonderful surprise when we opened the box on the big tōtara tree… it was full of tree wētā! There was a harem of 7 females and 1 male all huddled together. They’re nocturnal so they like hiding in the dark box during the day – we just had a quick peek.

They usually live in holes in trees that were made by beetle or moth larvae, or where rot has set in after a twig has broken off. When a tree wētā moves in, the wētā keeps the hole nice and clear by chewing away any bark growth surrounding the opening. Their new home is called a ‘gallery’. An insect box like the one Daddy and I made is a perfect gallery for a tree wētā!

Want to see more?

A few years ago, we had an amazing encounter with the Mahoenui Giant Wētā. Check out that post here:

References and Further Reading

Ideas for building your own insect hotels

Department of Conservation – How to Build a Wētā Motel – https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/toyota-kiwi-guardians/take-action/build-a-weta-motel/
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)

ALLOTMENT DIARY Blog – How I built a bug hotel – https://carrottopsallotment.com/2020/12/27/how-i-built-a-bug-hotel/
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)

EVERY TREASURE BLOG – Wild Family – Building Insect Hotels – https://everytreasure.blog/2021/04/09/wild-family-building-insect-hotels/
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)

GOEDBETERBEN Blog – Insect Hotel – https://goedbeterben.com/2021/05/14/insect-hotel/
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)

All about Wētā

Department of Conservation – Wētā – https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/invertebrates/weta/
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)

Massey University – Wētā Getter: A guide to New Zealand Orthoptera – http://wetageta.massey.ac.nz/
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)

Te Ara – Story: Wētā – https://teara.govt.nz/en/weta
(Retrieved 22 August 2021)


6 Comments Add yours

  1. blhphotoblog says:

    Great to see you again after such a long break!
    You have been busy, not just with the insect hotels but a growing family too!
    One day we may get back to some kind of normal. I see on the news NZ shut up shop with just 1 case of covid, hmmmm…… we are getting 30k+ a day! Then we are also approaching 80% fully vaccinated.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Zoomology says:

      I knoooow – At the rate we’ve been going, we’ve only been writing one post per year!🤣 Finding the time to sit down and do it is certainly a lot more challenging now with our two little people. Hopefully this will get the ball rolling again!

      Yes, we’re in Lockdown Level 4 here at the moment. That means no leaving your property unless you need to visit an essential service (eg. Supermarket, pharmacy etc). The one case is now 70-something related cases, so just as well we locked down when we did. It seems they’ve almost managed to ring-fence it… the next few days will tell.

      I hope you are keeping well and managing to steer clear of COVID yourself. I’m looking forward to catching up on your blog soon. 🙂


      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great to see you back! Love the insect hotels … and you have guests, too, which is always great! Hope you all stay well and safely ride out this nasty Covid over there. The Delta varient has ripped through here despite high vaccination levels, and cases are still pretty high.Could be in for a rough autumn and winter.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lockdown can have some positive sides, e.g. catching up with the to-do list. I’m glad your insect hotel has been accepted by what sound like interesting insects, which were new to me. Thank you for introducing them.
    Good luck with the growing families, your garden visitors’ and your own. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. stewartcrawford says:

    Lovely :)? article.

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wonderful blog! Glad to see the uptake is slow, as I put out two wētā hotels a few months ago and nothing yet haha! Hopefully they’ll move in eventually! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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