In the “Exploring nature with children booklet

5 star weta motel. Photo: DOC/Adrienne Grant.

Weta have been around for long enough to see the dinosaurs come and go and are New Zealand icons. Your kids will be freaked and fascinated by these amazing insects and you can encourage their curiosity by helping them to build a "weta motel".

A weta motel is essentially a nice dry hole that weta can crawl into and be safe from predators like rats, mice, stoats, cats, birds and hedgehogs.

You can go for a 1 star bamboo version, or a more luxury 3-5 star wooden structure depending how fancy you decide to get.

A simple motel can be easily made by cutting a large length of bamboo into sections so the bamboo join forms the roof of the motel. Tie the piece of bamboo vertically onto a tree with a cable tie or piece of string and voila - a 1 star weta motel.

Earn a Kiwi Guardians medal by creating a wētā 'motel' in your backyard.

1 star weta motel. Photo: DOC/Adrienne Grant.
A 1 star weta motel

For luxury weta motels…

Only essential features are given in this luxury weta motel design3. The sizes of gallery spaces and entry holes are the most important factors.

Other tips:

  • Entrance holes (16 mm dia) should be drilled after gap filling glue has fully set.
  • Angle the entrance hole to avoid rainwater entering.
  • Macrocarpa is the best timber to use, but tanalised radiata pine is okay.
  • New motel units require some time for weathering before large numbers of weta will reside inside.
  • Place unit on shady side of tree trunk, away from direct sunlight.

You may have seen weta motels in public places with a perspex window covering the cavity. This stops weta falling out when the door is opened, but it is said to cause humidity and is limiting for the weta. Try without or with a piece of transparent acetate or some other similar material. There is also less chance of weta falling out if you only make single size galleries.

Luxury motel houses weta and gecko. Photo: DOC/Rosalind Cole.
A luxury motel on the ground houses weta and gecko

Luxury weta motel diagram

Diagram of a luxury weta motel designed by George Gibbs.
Luxury weta motel 3

This luxury weta motel is made from two lengths of 100 mm by 25 mm wood.

Three galleries are cut out of the first length of wood: one big gallery and two small galleries positioned under the large one.

  • The large gallery is 80mm by 50 mm by 25 mm. It has an entrance hole of 16 mm diameter.
  • The small galleries measure 80 mm by 20 mm by 25 mm. They sit side by side and each has an entrance hole of 16 mm.

The back board is made from the second length of wood, and attached behind the first with gap filling glue.

A third length of wood can be attached in front as a cover board. The cover board keeps galleries dark during daylight hours – it can be hinged and kept closed with a hook and hasp, or attached by two bolts with wingnuts.

The motel has a roof made of an angled piece of tin.

3 Designed by George Gibbs, Victoria, University of Wellington

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