Highlights from the Leigh Harbour Valley Society Lizard Watching Evenings

Bug enthusiast Alex Wardenaar from our Predator Control Team accompanied Virginia on the Leigh Harbour Valley Society monitoring evening and despite not recording any geckos’ sightings a number of other interesting insects were spotted. Please enjoy Alex’s account.

We spotlighted a property in Leigh in the hope of finding geckos. Although we didn’t encounter any geckos, I witnessed an unprecedented number of Auckland tree wētā. Literally dozens of them! Pairs of Auckland tree wētā, Hemideina thoracica, a distinctive species native to the Auckland region, were scattered across the trees, emerging from their hidey holes after dark. Additionally, we spotted numerous large cave wētā, but with almost 50 different species, it’s challenging to identify the specific ones we saw. While most people associate cave wētā with caves, similar to tree wētā, they also inhabit trees in the forest at night. They have an omnivorous, scavenger diet.

Lizard Watch Night TFBT

Moreover, there was an abundance of massive sheetweb spiders (Cambridgea sp.) to be seen. These spiders can grow to a considerable size, with the larger one’s leg span reaching as large as a child’s hand. We also observed plenty of banded tunnel-web spiders (Hexathele hochstetteri). It’s relatively easy to locate the homes of tunnel-web spiders; they construct fine silk tunnels on tree surfaces. At night, they sit at the tunnel entrance, ready to ambush any passing prey.

The presence of such a thriving insect population was incredibly gratifying, considering the usual scarcity. All species of wētā, especially the giant, slow wētāpunga, are highly vulnerable to predation by rats and cats. This highlights the profound impact trapping can have not only on birdlife but also on the entire ecological balance. An abundance of wētā provide easy prey for ruru, as they do natures job of ‘cleaning up’.

Overall, our observations underscore the intricate interconnectedness of species within the ecosystem and emphasize the importance of conservation efforts in preserving biodiversity.