New Zealand is the only place in the world where you can see a starry sky even during a day. How is it possible? Glowing larvae of mosquitoes living deep in caves create the impression of thousands of bright stars. This is an unique spectacle for tourists from all over the world. Maybe you wonder why these larvae live in the darkness?

Glowing caves in New Zealand

Cave light is caused by larvae, which then grow into insects like mosquitoes. Their name is Arachnocampa luminosa – arachnocampa because it kills its food in the same way as spiders and luminosa because it shines. The larvae hang on the ceilings of caves or trees, wherever it is damp, silent and dark. They hang long ropes with sticky balls from their bottoms which they make from their body fluids. When the creature is hungry, it lights up and attracts the attention of mosquitoes, flies, even smaller spiders or other flying creatures. When the curious future food approaches, it sticks to the ball, and the larva then sucks it or eats the whole piece.

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The glowing cave looks like a dark night sky full of stars

After 6 to 12 months, the larva is twisted and hatched into an adult. It only lives for a few days and its only task is to find a suitable match and to copulate. The females lay eggs from which new larvae hatch, and the cycle is repeated.

Visit the Waitomo cave

Tourists from all over the world come to see this brilliant spectacle. As soon as you find yourself in a New Zealand luminous sky in a quiet cave, you will feel as if you were in a different world.

Most tourists head to the Waitomo cave complex every year. It is the best-known spot for observing glowing larvae in New Zealand. The complex is estimated to be up to 30 million years old. The cave of Waitomo is owned by a family whose ancestor, the original inhabitant of Tane Tinorau Island, arrived in the cave together with English scientists in the 19th century. However, the administration of the cave was soon taken away from them, and it wasn’t until 1989 that the descendants got it back. Here you will find useful information you need to know before traveling to New Zealand.

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Waitomo is one of the most famous places where glowing larvae can be seen

If you are interested in exploring the Waitomo cave, you will have an unforgettable experience. There is a massive river flowing through the cave where large eels live. As a part of the guided tour, you will take the boat together with other tourists, the rest will be taken care of by an experienced guide. The tour takes a few hours, and in addition to the glowing larvae, you will surely enjoy the views of the karst formations and the vast rocky halls. The most famous is the Cathedral which is about 18 meters high.    


The more the larvae shine, the greater the hunger, which means they are trying to lure something good to eat. When the population is overrunning, the larvae even begin to practise cannibalism.

Visit the glowing caves on your own

The glowing larvae, however, aren’t only found in the Waitomo cave, but also in other cave complexes located in New Zealand. Larvae also occur in dark forests, especially in places where there is damp and dark. You can also see the glowing larvae in the Clifden Limestone cave, on the forest path near Fox Glacier or in the woods near Hokitika Dell. There are many options, it pays off to explore the internet or to ask the locals before visiting.  Local people have the best information about the presence of these insects, and they are happy to share it with you. If you travel to Zealand, you will be tempted to visit other unique places that this island has to offer.

Every visitor should bear in mind that the greatest danger to this unique insect is primarily human. The larvae search for dark places where there is no sunlight that naturally bothers them. If you go to the caves on your own, get ready for a little more adventure.

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The hungry larva surrounds the fibers on which they hunt insects

Light of flashlights, camera flash or other bright light can cause the larvae to turn off the light and never glow again. Therefore, forget getting photography of these insects and enjoy your own visual experience. Likewise, the flashlight in the cave can interfere with the larvae. For this reason, it is advisable to choose a very fine light or simply cover the flashlight with a dark cloth. You don’t have to worry there would be hours long cave tour in the dark. The larvae stay usually near the entrance of the cave to have the chance to capture as many insects as possible. Surely you won´t miss them.

Would you visit caves with glowing larvae during your trip to New Zealand? Would you like to have a guided tour of tourists or would you rather find the cave yourself? Leave us a comment!