New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2008) 32(1): 92- 97

Tracking tunnels: a novel method for detecting a threatened New Zealand giant weta (Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae)

Short Communication
Corinne H. Watts 1,4
Danny Thornburrow 1
Chris J. Green 2
Warren R. Agnew 3
  1. Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Private Bag 68908, Newton, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. Young Street, RD2, Warkworth¸ New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Several species of giant weta, including wetapunga (Deinacrida heteracantha, Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae), New Zealand’s largest terrestrial invertebrate, have high conservation value, yet no methods for detecting and monitoring them have been developed. Here we show that rodent tracking tunnels set over three consecutive nights can be used to detect wetapunga on Little Barrier Island. Adult wetapunga footprints had significantly longer tarsal pad lengths than subadult wetapunga and Auckland tree weta, but tarsal pad length does not distinguish between subadult wetapunga and adult Auckland tree weta. Results suggest that setting tunnels on the ground is more effective than setting them on tree branches and that peanut butter as an attractant bait increases the detection rate of adult wetapunga. Future research is required to determine if the footprints of ground weta, tree weta and giant weta of different ages can be distinguished and to determine how tracking rates of giant weta relate to the population density.