Nestled in the heart of the Tōtara Reserve in the Pohangina Valley is an unlikely five-star hotel.

But this hotel's rooms aren't for human guests - they're for wētā.

It's part of a project by Horizons Regional Council to measure the number of predators in the park, Horizon's biodiversity advisor Neil Gallagher said.

"Part of the reason for the wētā box project is that we can monitor rat numbers."


"Wētā are indicators of a predator-free environment and healthy wētā numbers in the boxes will be an indicator that pest control is working in the park," Gallagher said.

"Lots of wētā is a good thing. We always focus on things we can see, the trees and the birds, but what about the things that we can't see? Those insects that call the bush home too? That's why we have these boxes."

The wētā boxes were made from untreated macrocarpa with holes for the insect tocrawl into.

Human visitors could spy on the wētā by quietly opening the door to reveal the "hotel suite".

"We want people to open the door and have a look," said Gallagher. "There's a perspex panel which will protect the wētā as they sleep."

Ecologist Dr Lizzie Daly said wētā were nocturnal, lived in trees and liked warm, moist places.

"It is likely that we will not only have wētā inside but also spiders and cockroaches - nice, native cockroaches," Daly said.

"Plus other invertebrates in the forest, and very occasionally small lizards and things like that will hang out inside of them."


Daly said the Wellington and Auckland tree wētā species overlapped with the Manawatū region.

"There are loads of different wētā and the Pureora wētā is as big as your hand," she said, calmly holding a female wētā as big as her hand.

"They do look quite scary when you do come across them, I suppose, and that's probably quite good for them," she admitted.

"But if it's a female you can pick her up and put her under a tree."

Wētā have been around long enough to watch dinosaurs come and go and to evolve into more than 70 different species, all endemic to New Zealand.

As with other members of the grasshopper family, their ears were on their knees. There were five broad groups of wētā: tree, ground, cave, giant and tusked wētā.


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