Little critters

On a visit to Te Puna Quarry Park I sneaked around to have a look at the nettle patch – unceremoniously sprayed at the beginning of summer by an over-zealous worker – wanting to see if it had recovered (it had) and if there were any signs of admiral butterflies (they lay their eggs and make their chrysalis on nettles).

While I couldn’t see any evidence of butterflies, I did spot one, then two, then heaps of these critters (Conocephalus spp).

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Field grasshopper with very long antennae. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There was no mistaking this critter (below) when I saw it on the garage wall.

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A ground weta, possibly, and likely a young one going by size, not much bigger than my little finger. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Not too large, thank goodness. There are about 60 species of armoured weta insects native to New Zealand and they vary in size enormously – the giant weta of Little Barrier Island can weigh up to 35g, while the Nelson alpine weta is about 7g. Read a NZ Geographic article about weta here.

This past summer has apparently seen an “invasion” of black crickets into homes and businesses. We always have a few inside which we try to trap and release. Boy, is the male’s chirp loud! There’s often one in the laundry and that’s generally the one we never find (presumably, it dies of dehydration).

‘Bugman’ Ruud Kleinpaste notes: “If you’ve 10 crickets to the square metre … it’s equivalent to having an extra stock unit on your property. That is how much grass they eat. So yes, they are a pest.”

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Likely a garden soldier fly, introduced from Australia.  Adults probably feed on pollen and nectar, Photo: Sandra Simpson