10 Biggest Insects in the World
The sight of most insects is enough to stir a feeling of disgust, unease, or outright fear in most of us. And the bigger the insect, the bigger the scare factor! Luckily, we don’t live in 2.5 million B.C. Back then, insects used to be outright ghastly due to their incredible size. The prehistoric dragonfly “Meganeuropsis Permiana” is the most well-known example of a giant bug.
This species measured 17 inches long, with a wingspan of over 28 inches. But it could’ve been even worse! In 2018, scientists discovered the remains of one of the largest invertebrates that roamed the Earth 326 million years ago. Named “Howick Arthropleura”, this giant arthropod measured up to 9 feet and weighed more than 110 pounds. Big yikes! Quite literally.
Luckily, insects nowadays are a lot smaller. However, some outliers still surprise us with their size. In this article, we’ll talk about 10 of the largest living insects on Earth. But don’t worry, most of these live in secluded areas. Most of these bugs are also harmless to humans!
1. Tarantula Hawk Wasps (Pepsinae Family)
There are multiple species of Tarantula Hawks within the Pepsinae family. These wasps are known for their impressive proportions, as well as their natural inclination to hunt and eat spiders. Tarantula Hawks are some of the largest parasitic wasps discovered to date.
Some of the biggest adult female wasps observed reach a length of 2.7 inches. In addition to this, they also have an impressive 4.5-inch wingspan. That’s very big for most insects, considering that the average wasp is under 1 inch long. And if their size wasn’t intimidating enough, Tarantula Hawks are usually a dark blue-green color, almost black.
They have body shapes similar to ants, but their legs are very long and slender. They also have one of the most painful stings in the world. It has been described as ‘immediate,’ ‘agonizing,’ and ‘unstoppable.’ Clearly, this isn’t an insect that you’d want to see up-close.
2. Mydas Flies (Gauromydas Heros)
The Mydidae family contains close to 500 species of flies. Collectively, they’re called Mydas flies. While they all belong to the same family, there’s a lot of variation in body size between different species. Many, but not all of them, are among the largest flies on the planet.
Of these 500 species, the Gauromydas heros is the record holder. It’s believed to be the largest true fly species on Earth. It can reach a length of 2.8 inches, and its wingspan can go up to 3.9 inches. In comparison to the impressive Gauromydas heros, the common housefly is just 1/4 inches long and has an average wingspan of 1/2 inches.
So, this gargantuan insect is more than 11 times the size of a regular fly. While their size seems intimidating, they’re actually harmless to humans and other insects. The male flies feed on flower nectar, while female flies don’t feed at all. They don’t have stingers, but they’ve evolved to imitate wasps and bees to scare away predators.
Their appearance is also somewhat similar to wasps and bees. They have an elongated body with long legs, elongated yellowish-brown wings, and long antennae with yellow or orange tips.
3. Little Barrier Giant Wētā (Deinacrida Heteracantha)
The Little Barrier Giant Wētā is the largest species of Wētā on Earth. This species, and Wētās in general, are only found in New Zealand. The Little Barrier Giant Wētā gets its name from its location— this bug can only be seen on the Little Barrier Island in New Zealand.
It’s actually considered a vulnerable species according to the IUCN. There’s an ongoing decline in numbers and they only inhabit a restricted number of places. The island they inhabit is only 7,620 acres in size.
The Little Barrier Giant Wētā is a species belonging to the suborder Ensifera. They’re related to crickets. As such, they’re mostly herbivorous. They feed on foliage and can generate loud chirps similar to crickets. However, these insects are wingless and a lot larger than other insects in the same suborder.
The massive Little Barrier Giant Wētā is among the heaviest insects on Earth. The largest female of the species can weigh up to 2.5 ounces, more than most small rodents. These bugs are also quite long, reaching up to 4 inches without measuring the legs or antennae.
They have stout orange-brown bodies and rounded black heads. Their mandibles are short, but they have long spiny legs. Not a cute sight for a cricket-like creature. The Māori name “Wētā” actually means “God of ugly things,” so it’s quite accurate. Thank God they’re herbivorous!
4. Giant Water Bugs (Belostomatidae Family)
Most bugs in the order Hemiptera aren’t notably large. However, the insect family Belostomatidae stands out among most other members. Bugs belonging to this family are also known as “giant water bugs”. And “giant” isn’t an exaggeration. These bugs can grow to be longer than 4.5 inches.
They’re really trying to outgrow some of the mightiest beetles out there! The species “Lethocerus maximus” can even reach a length of over 4.7 inches. Step aside, Goliath beetle! There’s a new extra-large bug in town!
Members of the Belostomatidae family are all freshwater insects. They’re fierce predators and they feed on crustaceans, amphibians, and even fish. Appearance-wise, they look like most other bugs you might have seen. They’re dark brown and have a flattened, rounded, and elongated body. Except they’re many times larger.
They have three pairs of legs, the front pair being particularly thick and acting like pincers. They use these large front legs to grab and immobilize prey. These bugs can also inject venomous saliva into wounds. And some species are also known to fly! And if you’re wondering, yes, they also pinch humans.
They’re also called “toe-biters” and “alligator ticks,” so they don’t have a good reputation around us either. In some parts of the world, however, these frightening bugs are less of a source of nightmare fuel and more of a local delicacy. The “Lethocerus indicus” species is particularly popular in South and Southeast Asia.
5. Tropidacris Grasshoppers (Romaleidae Family)
Tropidacris is not a single species, but a genus of three insect species in the family Romaleidae. The three species included in this genus are “Tropidacris collaris,” “Tropidacris cristata,” and “Tropidacris descampsi.” They’re all found across Central and Southern America.
These oversized grasshoppers are among the largest members of the Romaleidae family. They beat the records both in terms of body length, as well as wingspan. The largest members of these species can reach 4.7 inches in length and 9.1 inches in wingspan, respectively.
Tropidacris grasshoppers prove that large bugs can be both beautiful and non-threatening. Like most other grasshoppers, these species are herbivorous. They only feed on vegetation. They come in a variety of shades of blue and orange.
Nymphs are typically black and yellow, while adults can be blue-green, yellow, and rusty brown. These beautifully colored wings, ironically, help the grasshoppers not stand out in their environment. They help with camouflaging between leaves and flowers.
6. Titan Beetle (Titanus Giganteus)
Titan Beetles inhabit rainforests in Central and Southern America. They can be found in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, as well as north-central Brazil. These beetles are the largest in the World when measured by sheer body size. The largest specimen found to date measured 6.6 inches in length.
While no Titan Beetle larvae have been observed so far, scientists have measured tree boreholes created by these larvae. Based on these holes, it’s estimated that Titan Beetle larvae can reach 12 inches in length.
The adult beetles have big and powerful mandibles that could easily snap pencils in half. Piercing through human skin is also a non-issue for this bug’s choppers. But they only bite in self-defense or when threatened. While most beetles are herbivorous, the Titan Beetle doesn’t feed at all.
7. Hercules Beetles (Dynastes Hercules)
Another really big beetle! This beetle is native to the rainforests of Central and South America. It’s also a very popular choice as a pet insect, especially in Asia, where large beetles are thought to symbolize good luck. Calm and peaceful, this majestic bug feeds on fresh or rotting fruit and gets along pretty well with humans.
Dynastes Hercules is the longest beetle species on earth and also the largest flying insect recorded up to date. Males of this species can reach up to 7 inches in length, thanks to their very long horns. The horn accounts for more than half of this bug’s body length. The body itself measures around 2-3.3 inches. They can also reach up to 1.7 inches in body width.
Hercules beetles can weigh anywhere between 0.07-0.30 pounds. Allegedly, a Hercules beetle can carry up to 850 times its bodyweight, which makes it one of the strongest insects in the World. That could explain its name. However, that would mean that a Hercules beetle can carry at least 59 pounds, which is the equivalent of an adult male Husky.
8. White Witch Moth (Thysania Agrippina)
The White Witch is a Moth species in the family Erebidae. It can be found over a wide area ranging from Uruguay to Mexico. Sometimes, this Moth can also travel further North, reaching the state of Texas.
This species is known for its beauty. This moth rivals some of the most colorful butterflies. Its ashy white wings and the hypnotic light brown marks make for a simple yet striking appearance. Its coloring has earned it multiple nicknames, including the “Great Owlet Moth,” “Ghost Moth,” and the “Great Grey Witch.” It’s truly a bewitching sight!
But the most important fact is that this moth is also a competitor for the title of “largest insect in the world.” Some observed specimens have a wingspan of up to 14 inches! This bird-sized moth is only rivaled by the Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) and the Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules). While these two species have greater wing areas, the White Witch has the largest wingspan, which still makes it appear larger at a first glance.
9. Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera)
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera Alexandrae), as the name suggests, is large enough to rival most birds in size. This is considered to be the largest butterfly in the World. But it’s a sexually dimorphic species, so male and female butterflies can look drastically different. Females can grow over 3 inches long, and their wingspan can go a little over 1 foot wide.
Male butterflies, on the other hand, have wings stretching only up to 8 inches wide. Female butterflies have more bland-looking wings, usually brown, with white marks towards the tips. Male butterflies have narrower and more angled wings, usually black in the middle and vivid blue-green across the edges.
Besides being the largest in the World, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is also among the rarest butterfly species. It’s only found in the forests of the Oro Province in Papua New Guinea. And while it was discovered in 1906, it’s already considered endangered by the IUCN.
The destruction of its habitat for large-scale crop plantations, combined with the high demand by insect collectors worldwide, is slowly driving this beautiful species to the brink of extinction. The situation is so dire, that the international commercial trade of this species has been outlawed.
10. Giant Stick Insects (Phryganistria Chinensis)
Stick insects are, on average, the longest insects in the world. As their name suggests, they look similar to sticks. That’s not only because of their thin, long bodies, but also their coloring. Stick insects can range in color from dark brown to light green, and anything in between!
There are over 3000 documented species of stick insects in the order Phasmatodea, and most species grow up to around 12 inches long. But that’s nothing compared to the world record holder! Belonging to the same order, Phryganistria chinensis is both the longest stick insect and the longest insect overall.
Discovered in the Guangxi Zhuang region of China in 2016, this species can measure up to 25.2 inches in length. It’s a little larger than a 4-month-old baby! However, due to their extremely thin bodies, most stick insects weigh a lot less than you’d expect for their size.
From the humble roach, all the way to the most exotic butterfly, there’s lots of variation when it comes to body size, even among the same order of insects. And we have multiple world-record holders, depending on how we measure them.
Some bugs hold the record for the heaviest insects. This is true for the Little Barrier Giant Wētā. It can reach a surprising 2.5 ounces in weight, sometimes more! Other insects can qualify for the largest in the World due to their incredible wingspan. Both the White Witch Moth and the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing can stretch their wings a little over one foot wide!
Other insects still hold the world record due to their unparalleled body length. The title for the longest insect in the World belongs to Phryganistria Chinensis, a stick insect species that surpasses 25 inches. And there are, of course, multiple noteworthy insects that stand out as the largest members in their order, such as Tarantula Hawk Wasps, Mydas Flies, or Giant Water Bugs.