10 of the Largest Insects

Insects are often thought of as tiny and in many instances we don’t usually notice them. They go on making their own little world while they dominate our planet. But some insects are relatively enormous! Can we still ignore them now? We don’t think so! These giant insects are really fearsome and actually capable of dominating their prey — but all of them are awesome in their own way.

Unfortunately, sometimes it seems that it’s we humans who are responsible for their diminishing numbers (one of the insects listed here is, in fact, extinct).

Click through this gallery to find out about the 10 largest insects of the world.

Not only is the giant weta one of the largest insects, but is also one of the heaviest. In 2011, one nature-lover reported that he found a giant weta that weighed about 71 grams — heavier than a sparrow and three times the weight of a mouse. Giant weta are excellent examples of island gigantism since they are commonly found only on islands.

The giant weta (both singular and plural form) is endemic to New Zealand. There are eleven species of the giant weta, and some of them are bigger than the others. Most of them are wingless and can cope with a variety of environments. Very large weta can grow up to 10 centimeter (or 4 inches), excluding the legs and the antennae, and their average body mass is usually no more than 35 grams. And the giant weta, not surprisingly, is a hearty eater. Many giant weta are omnivores — they prey on other insects and also feed on leaves, flowers, lichens,  and fruits. In fact, one giant weta can chomp a whole carrot!

The giant water bug belongs to the family of insects Belostomatidae in the order Hemiptera. Giant water bugs are native to the Americas, Northern Australia, and East Asia. They are commonly found in freshwater bodies of water, particularly in streams and ponds. Most species of the giant water bug are quite large — their average length measures about at least 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) long, but there are also smaller species. Other species can grow as long as 10 centimeters (4 inches). Because they resemble beetles or cockroaches, many people often mistake them for those insects.

Also known as toe-biters and alligator ticks, these enormous insects are considered a delicacy, especially in some Asian countries such as Thailand, where they are sold in markets.

Phasmatodea is the name of an order of insects which include the giant stick insects (or walking stick or stick-bugs). Like their other “normally”-sized counterparts, giant stick insects provide an excellent camouflage. It renders them unrecognizable, especially to their victims which may be unaware that they’re going to be the next meal, or to their own predators. The longest giant stick insect on record is measured at about 2 feet and is found in Southeast Asia. Because of their uniqueness, many species of these insects are kept as pets.

For most of us a cockroach is one of our biggest horrors in the house. Just a regular-sized cockroach would instantly make us scream and jump out of our seats. But you may take a kinder look at the giant burrowing cockroach which is wingless, plays a big role in ecosystem, and in some cultures is kept as pets.

Mistakenly called litter bugs (as cockroaches are not true bugs), the giant burrowing cockroach is known as the heaviest species of cockroach. They can weigh up to 35 grams (or 1.2 ounces) and their average length measures 80 millimeters (3.1 inches). But their relative Blaberus giganteus (native to Central America) is still considered the longest and largest cockroach with an average length of 7.5 centimeters in males and 10 centimeters in females.

Although they looked like giant dragonflies, they were actually bugs that belonged to the order Protodonata. Sometimes referred to as griffin flies, these big bugs had wingspans that measured 2.5 feet across, making them as large as a crow. They had mandibles that were frighteningly huge, making them one most intimidating predators during their existence. They would remind you of some monster horror flick with giant flying bugs terrorizing the town. Fortunately, these big bugs were extinct a long time ago.

This awesome-looking moth is native across the Malay archipelago and is almost as big as any bird. The wingspan of the Atlas moth can be as wide as 12 inches with a surface area of 62 square inches. Females are usually bigger and heavier than males. Their cocoons are used as purses in Taiwan, and are also harvested in India for their silk.

Unfortunately, these beautiful moths have no mouths once they emerge from their cocoons. They rely on the fat storage they’ve accumulated from their immature stages as their source of food. That’s probably one of the reasons why Atlas moths have a short adult life span, dying usually within a week or two. Still, they remain the behemoths (pardon the pun) of their own kind.

Actaeon beetle (or sometimes spelled as “acteon beetle”) is one of the many types of rhinoceros beetle with a scientific name Megasoma actaeon. It is named after the famous Theban hero Actaeon in Greek mythology.

Commonly found in the Amazon rainforests, the Actaeon beetle can reach up to 5 inches in length and can grow up 1.6 inches thick. Because of their formidable size and armor, Actaeon beetles have almost no known natural predators.

True to its name, the Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus) in its adult stage can grow up to 6.5 inches in length. Its strong mandibles can reportedly snap a pencil in half and — get ready for this — can rip into human flesh, too!

Found usually in the rainforests of South America such as the Amazon (also the home of the Acteon beetle), the Titan beetle has become an unlikely attraction for adventurous tourists.

Despite the name, the tarantula hawk is neither a tarantula nor a hawk. It is actually a species of wasp that is so enormous that they can prey on tarantulas for food. Some species measure up 5 centimeter (2 inches) long, making them one of the biggest wasps.

Aside from its enormous size, there are a couple other reasons to be scared of the tarantula hawk. Its long legs have have hooked claws on the ends to latch on to its victims, and the stinger (which can reach up to 7 millimeters long) is among the most excruciatingly painful insect stings in the world.

The name befits this species of butterfly — the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is the largest butterfly in the world. The female has a wing span that measures over 1 foot. It is found exclusively in the forests of the Oro Province in Papua New Guinea.

Unfortunately, the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is under threat due to destruction of its habitat and also because of collectors hunting the butterflies down. Conservation efforts are implemented to preserve and increase their dwindling numbers.

These beetles seem to dominate the world of insects. Another huge species of beetle is the Goliath beetle, which may easily be one of the strong candidates for the biggest insects on earth. They can reach up to over 4 inches in length, and weigh as much as 100 grams. They are native to the African forests.

Many people like to keep these enormous beetles as pets and some also make a living of breeding them. Captive Goliath beetles are fed with a variety of foodstuffs from vegetables to dog and cat food.