Tonight we are hosting a “Bug Hunt” at Matuku Link. Along with expert entomologists and visitors, we’ll be searching the wetlands for many legged critters and trying to identify them. Over the last week, we’ve let te aitanga pepeke (the insect world, including spiders, lizards, and other small creatures) take over our social media. Here are a few fascinating creatures we might encounter tonight:

Wt
There are over 100 species of wt in Aotearoa New Zealand, and all are endemic (only found in NZ). They are grouped into five categories: the tree wt, cave wt, ground wt, tusked wt, and of course the giant wt, or wtpunga!
Wt have been around for 190 million years (longer than tuatara!) and filled the role of rats and mice as seed dispersers and food for other creatures. Like many of New Zealands native species, wt are threatened by introduced predators and habitat loss.
狐 Mayflies
The mayfly is the oldest surviving winged insect on the planet and is found throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and the world. In fact, they can be found on every continent except Antarctica!
Juvenile mayflies, or nymphs, reside in water, favouring cool, clean environments. Their presence signifies clean water. They play a vital role in freshwater ecosystems, aiding in nutrient cycling and serving as a vital food source for fish, birds, and bats. Mayflies only have s short adult lifespan, just long enough to find a mate. After mating, the female mayfly falls to the water, lays her eggs, and both males and females die.
Harvestmen
Ever heard of a harvestman? These unique creatures, often mistaken for insects or spiders, are actually arachnids! Found in wet forests and caves, they possess a fascinating defence mechanism: they can shed their legs to distract predators, akin to lizards, although they don’t regrow them.
These long-legged creatures are opportunistic omnivores, and will eat a variety of insects, and have even been seen hanging out under spider webs and collecting discarded pieces of prey that the spider has dropped!
Did you know: The forsteropsalis pureora species of harvestman has three types of male! The alpha and beta types use their large jaws, or chelicerae, to fight and win a female mate, while the much smaller gamma males search for undefended females to sneakily mate with.
More information on these fascinating creatures here: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/…/06/27/arachnid-males.html
P贖riri moth
The p贖riri moth is Aotearoa New Zealand’s biggest moth, with females growing up to 15cm wide! Males, like the one in the photo, are a little smaller. These stunning creatures start their journey as eggs laid in leaf litter. Once hatched, the juvenile moths, known as pepe tuna, burrow into p贖riri tree trunks (or a few other tree species), creating distinctive ‘7’ shaped burrows where they reside for 5-7 years. Upon emerging as adult moths, their lifespan is brief, just long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Fun fact: P贖riri moths also inhabit putaputawt trees, named for the holes (puta) left by emerging moths where wt seek shelter. Interestingly, in the South Island/Te Waipounamu, where p贖riri moths aren’t found, the putaputawt tree is known as piripiriwhata!
瘀 Tunnelweb spiders
Aotearoa New Zealand is home to an estimated 20,000 species of spiders, with over 90% being endemic. While the spiders we commonly encounter around the house are usually introduced species, most endemic species inhabit native habitats, from forests to alpine regions. All spiders are carnivorous, playing a vital role in maintaining insect populations and serving as prey for other native species.
Today, let’s shine a light on tunnelweb spiders. Worldwide, there are 85 known species of tunnelweb spider, with 25 found in New Zealand. The endemic banded tunnelweb spider, a harmless relative of tarantulas and the venomous Australian funnelweb, is an ambush predator. It constructs tunnel-shaped webs with a broad entrance that acts as a detection mechanism for prey. Once captured, the insect is dragged into the spider’s tunnel for consumption. Tunnelweb spiders prey on various arthropods and have even been observed consuming snails.