11 of the Biggest Insects in the World That Will Take Your Love of Nature to the Next Level
We like big bugs. The world's biggest insects include giant butterflies, beetles, and stick insects.
Announcement, nature lovers: If your appreciation of the environment doesn't include the biggest insects in the world, you're missing out on some multi-legged cool. Bugs may get a bad wrap—think "creepy crawly"—but insects are an integral part of our shared experience on this planet.
Whether you love them or hate them, insects make up a staggering 75% of all animals and play an essential role in our food chain and ecosystems, pollinating, decomposing, and generally providing a constant flow of nutrients. Our lives would not be the same (or perhaps even possible) without them.
Rumor has it that the past (think 300 million years ago) saw giant insects roaming the Earth, some with wingspans of up to 28 inches. While most modern bugs may be on the smaller side, there are still several species that insist on taking up a serious amount of space. Here, 11 of the biggest insects in the world—and what you need to know about them.
11 of the Biggest Insects in the World
1. Titan Beetle
The Titan Beetle is one of the largest beetles in the world, growing up to 6.5 inches long. This insect can be found in the rainforests of Colombia, Ecuador, North-Central Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru, and has mandibles strong enough to snap a pencil in half and rip into human flesh. (Yikes!)
2. Giant Wetas
Giant Wetas are large insects native to New Zealand. Though closely related to crickets, these big bugs can grow up to 4 inches and weigh up to 1.2 ounces (heavier than a mouse or small bird), making them one of the heaviest insects on the planet.
Giant Wetas help to nourish their environment by eating plant detritus helping to spread native seeds across landscapes.
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3. Stick Insects
Stick insects or walking sticks are some of the longest insects on the planet, clocking in at up to one foot long! These insects are found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica, and come in many shapes and sizes, mimicking sticks and twigs in an effort to avoid predators.
When stick insects consume plants, they encourage new growth, aiding in the health of the surrounding ecosystem.
4. Goliath Beetles
Goliath beetles make their homes in Africa's tropical forests, can measure more than 4 inches long, and weigh up to 2 ounces. Interestingly, the insect can be even heavier in its larval stage, with a weight of up to 3.5 ounces.
5. Tarantula Hawks
Don't let the name confuse you: tarantula hawks are actually giant wasps so large and strong, they can actually hunt tarantulas. These brightly colored wasps can reach a length of 2.7 inches, with a wingspan of 4.5 inches.
The ferocious spider-eaters are known for their enormous stingers, responsible for one of the world's most painful stings.
6. Atlas Moth
The Atlas moth—found all over Asia—has a wingspan that can reach up to 10 inches. To guard against predators like lizards, ants, and birds, the Atlas moth relies on a powerful scent that it can spray from more than a foot away. The moth's snake-like patterns, as well as its ability to shake its wings to mimic the movement of a snake's head, help with protection, too.
7. Mydas Fly
The Mydas fly is one of the largest flies in the world, reaching lengths of up to 2.4 inches with a wingspan of up to 3 inches. Despite their intimidating stature, the Mydas fly is a harmless pollinator that feeds on nectar, helping to enrich its ecosystem.
8. Hercules Beetle
As its name indicates, the Hercules beetle is a strong and powerful insect and is one of the largest bugs in the United States. Hercules beetles can reach up to 7 inches in length, with horns (enjoyed by the males of the species) up to 1/3 of that body length.
9. Giant Water Bug
The giant water bug (aka the alligator tick aka the toe-biter) is a predatory insect that can grow up to 3 inches long. They are known for being a strong, ferocious predator in ponds and streams, with giant pincers that make their bite incredibly painful.
10. Queen Alexandria’s Birdwing
The only butterfly on our list, the Queen Alexandria’s Birdwing, is the largest (and one of the rarest) butterflies in the world. Found only in remote regions of Papua New Guinea, the pollinator's wingspan can stretch to more than 10 inches.
11. Atlas Beetle
The Atlas beetle (not to be confused with the Atlas moth!) makes its home in the forests of Indonesia and can grow to more than 5 inches in length.
These beetles are known for their feisty and aggressive behavior as well as their positive environmental impact. The Atlas' feces fertilize soil, providing plants and vegetation with necessary nutrients.
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