A mouse in cricket's clothing
June 12, 2017 9:06 AM   Subscribe

In a land without mammals, giant insects filled in for small furry animals Now large hairless mammals are making heroic efforts to conserve one of the world's unloveliest beasties. The weta can weigh up to 70 grams and thrived until the mammals came.
posted by alloneword (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
So cute and GAHHHH and so cute and ...
posted by zippy at 9:11 AM on June 12

You know there's that movie-related company they could pay to make more of them. Yeah, a factory would be better, but with a workshop, you can get them artisanally crafted.
posted by Samizdata at 9:15 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Calling these one of the world's unloveliest beasties demonstrates a clear unfamiliarity with their New World cousin, the Jerusalem cricket. They're like wetas, but ... nakeder.
posted by darksasami at 9:18 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

the massive, and endangered, native insect known as the Mahoenui giant weta (Deinacrida mahoenui).

Unless I am mistaken the scientific name Deinacrida means terrible grasshopper - it seems apt.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:49 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Having cringed at their North American cousins, the spider cricket (they look like large spiders and live in basements and they JUMP VERY HIGH *shudder*), I'm having trouble not cheering the cat on.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:53 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Aww, lookit the adorable alien lobsterbunny!
posted by darksasami at 10:31 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]

If one of those things crawled onto my hand, I believe I just might piss myself.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:03 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]

I've tried, really tried, to see the weta as cute as everyone else seems to. But, look at this thing. It looks like it's about to messily bisect a Mobile Infantry soldier on Klendathu.

I dig the fat flightless parrots, though.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:19 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]

'No way' , I thought as I clicked Kabanos' link. It only loaded about 1/2 of the way before I yelled at my phone and started stabbing at the back button.
posted by Fig at 11:19 AM on June 12

Do they bite? There are so many people holding them! I don't even pick up spider crickets, because they bite. I'd honestly rather pick up a spider or bee.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:46 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I'd honestly rather pick up a delightful kitten.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:48 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]

Do they bite? There are so many people holding them! I don't even pick up spider crickets, because they bite. I'd honestly rather pick up a spider or bee.

Weta bites.

Weta bites Bear (so they're not all bad).
posted by leotrotsky at 11:51 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]

Weta bites

Who in his/her right mind lets this thing bit his/her fingers!!!??
posted by dov3 at 12:35 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

They far prefer cereals. Hence the name weetabix
posted by alloneword at 1:02 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]

I was worried for that cat's toes!
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:41 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Every so often I see a discussion of weta on the internet. It always goes the same way. Look at these giant insects! Wow aren't they rare and special! They fill niches that you never knew insects could fill! Someone posts the picture with the carrot. And then the comments start. "Kill it with fire!"

No! Metafilter, I can't allow this - not now that I have an account and a voice on this site!

Hi, so my partner is a conservation geneticist who did her PhD on these harmless and special wee beasties. And I, the poor fool, became an occasional field assistant towards the end of that PhD. I've almost certainly handled more weta than most of the people on the planet combined. I've peered into holes in trees while camping. I've hunted over the university campus for that one tree that grows their preferred leaves. I've traipsed through forest, over farmland, and up hills in the middle of nowhere to look for them. I've seen them grow up from eggs the size of rice grains into big healthy adults. I've eagerly opened boxes designed to provide shelter and security for wild weta, only to find them occupied by squatting beetles, spiders and, on one occasion, a gecko. I've helped set up night vision cameras to watch them mating (yeah). And I've been bitten, puked on and pooped on while trying to hold them still to get DNA samples. They tend to get a little upset if you try and snip off part of their foot - who would have thought? (Don't worry, it grows back)

It's a real problem in conservation to get people to care about our uglier species. Weta are special insects, bigger than most, more visible. Mountain weta can basically freeze solid during the winter and thaw out when summer comes; tree weta can be seen at night climbing up into the canopy to munch on leaves; cave weta are just kinda small and cute. They don't bite unless they must, they like quiet dark spaces and they have had a rough time with the introduction of ground predators. But it's hard for people to see past their spiky, aggressive appearance. I wish more people cared about weta the way my girlfriend does.

(She did just peer over my shoulder and say "You're not seriously defending weta on the internet, are you?" which means that she does at least have a realistic view of how difficult that is.)
posted by dashdotdot dash at 3:17 PM on June 12 [35 favorites]

They need a memerific marketing campaign. Call them shell-mice (not "armored mice" because that makes them sound dangerous) or something like that (mouse bugs? hand crickets? wetabeetles, which makes no sense but sounds cute?), make some nice animated storybits in which they are heroic or at least fun, and convince a power-blogger to write up a "why the weta is awesome" story. Maybe have it star in an indie film about an adorable child with her weta pet.

(If the mantis shrimp were endangered, it'd be no trouble raise tons of money for its preservation).

... they're not even that ugly. I mean, they look like bugs. That's what bugs look like. They don't look like ugly or horrific bugs. They look like cricket-ish beetle-ish bugs, not the kind with barbed hairs all over or lots of spikes and a stinger or "miniature eldritch horror" things like botfly larvae.

(I just went searching for nightmare bug pictures. It is possible I have spent too much time in the cthulian fiction & art arenas and am inured to horrific bug images.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:45 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]

Wetas are big cute bugs, and within their ecosystem (relatively speaking) their apex predator is the Morepork Owl. (Apparently the Terry Pratchett reference is random;)
posted by ovvl at 5:59 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Charismatic megafauna's cousin, oh-god-no microfauna.
posted by zippy at 6:56 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

Very cool post! dashdotdot dash, you and your girlfriend both sound awesome!
I am a fan of stick insects. Wetas seem like larger, plumper stick insects.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:14 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

My mum found one in her trousers once. After she had put them on.
posted by lollusc at 11:15 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

I found one in my trousers once. While I was driving.

So if you saw someone screech to a halt in the middle of the road in suburban Wellington, jump out of the car, and take his trousers off right there, yeah, that was me.
posted by happyinmotion at 3:30 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]

Yeah you win.

The wetas of suburban Wellington must have a thing for trousers. That's where we lived too when the great ent-pantsening (en-weta-ring?) of 1994 occurred.
posted by lollusc at 8:40 AM on June 13

That's where we lived too

I am now imagining everyone in Wellington, humans and bugs alike, living in a giant pair of trousers.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:07 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]

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