Did you know that giant dragonflies were the biggest insects ever to exist millions of years ago? These enormous insects had wingspan reaching close to 30 inches.
Their big mandibles also made them one of the most voracious predators. Many years down the line, insects have evolved to be so small. However, some insects still take up a significant amount of space.
Are you curious to discover some of the world's largest insects? Read on to learn about the biggest insects in the world, from the heaviest to the longest insects.
Related read: Bug Facts.
Insects play a major role in our ecosystem, from pollination to decomposition. Understanding the biology of our insect species can help protect biodiversity.
Deep in the Amazon forest, you will indeed find many large beetles. However, Titan beetles will catch your attention. The Titan beetle is the biggest insect in the beetle family3, with a body length of up to 6.5 inches.
The Titan is so big that they may be unable to take off from the ground. It will need to launch its wings from a tree to gain momentum.
Interestingly, scientists have not observed the Titan beetle larvae. However, based on the sizes of boreholes in trees, their larvae are also quite long. Titans also have huge mandibles and strong jaws. These mandibles can rip into human flesh. When threatened, this beetle makes a hissing sound to defend itself.
While the Titan beetle is the largest beetle, it is not the largest insect in the world.
Stick insects, also known as leaf insects or ghost insects, are some of the largest insects in the world, consisting of about 3,000 species. They are also some of the longest ones in the order Phasmatodea.
The longest stick insect belongs to the genus Phobaeticus, including the species Phobaeticus serratipes and Phobaeticus chani, each with a body length of up to 21 in.
However, the world’s longest insect record belongs to a newly discovered species called the Phryganistria chinensis. This stick insect has a body length measuring 25 in. It was found and bred at the Insect Museum of West China.
This big insect has a flat tubular appearance resembling a stick. It can easily hide from predators by blending into branches and leaves. The stick insect can play dead on tree branches to defend itself until the predator loses interest. It may even lose a leg to escape predators and regenerate it later.
Goliath beetles are one of the biggest insects, contending to be the world’s largest insect. These beetles inhabit tropical rainforests located in Africa.
One of the most peculiar features of the Goliath beetle is the unusual patterns on its back. The male beetles could grow up to 2.4 - 4.3 inches and 2.0-3.1 for females.
In the larval stage, Goliath beetles are even heavier, weighing as much as 80 to 100 grams (2.8 to 3.5 ounces) and up to 10 inches in length. This makes Goliath beetles one of the world’s largest beetles.
Giant wetas are massive bugs you can find on an island in New Zealand. They are closely related to crickets and belong to the genus Deinacrida. Giant wetas are one of the biggest bugs, weighing up to 2.5 ounces.
The giant weta species live in shrubs and trees but come down to the ground during mating season. If threatened, the Giant weta uses its spiny, sharp legs to defend itself.
The next on our list of giant insects in the world is the Atlas moth. You can find Atlas moths located all over Asia. This insect is so big that it is considered one of the largest species of moths2.
However, only the White Witch moth and the Hercules moth have a longer wingspan than the Atlas moth. The Hercules moth is the largest moth in the world. The Atlas moth has a wingspan that falls between 249 to 250 mm in females and from 210 to 230 mm in males.
The moth has beautiful snake-like patterns on its wings, which help it protect itself from predators. Also, at the larval stage, the Atlas moth releases a secretion to help guard against predators like ants, lizards, and birds.
Tarantula hawks are the largest wasps in the world. These large species can measure up to 2 inches long. These wasps are formidable predators capable of hunting down tarantula spiders, a food source for their larvae. The female tarantula hawk lays its eggs in the spider’s abdomen, and when these eggs hatch, they eat the spider alive.
What’s notable about the Tarantula hawk is their massive stingers. These stinging wasps have some of the most painful insect stings in the world. The pain from the tarantula hawk species Pepsis grossa sting is second only to the bullet ant.
The Giant water bug comes next on our list of one of the largest insects in the world. Known as toe-biters or alligator ticks, the giant water bug is a formidable predator in ponds and streams.
These water bugs deliver a painful bite using their giant pincers and inject venomous saliva into their prey. They thrive near slow-moving water and feed on tadpoles and small fish.
The largest species of the giant water bug can grow up to 4.5 inches. The biggest water bugs belong to the genus Lethocerus, with species Lethocerus grandis and Lethocerus maximus striving for the title of the biggest bug in the world.
In South and Southeast Asia, people eat these giant bugs and consider them a wonderful delicacy.
Known for its massive horns, the Hercules beetle is one of the longest species of beetles on our planet1. You will only find these longhorns in male Hercules beetles, which they use to fight other males when looking for a mate.
This horn also accounts for more than half of the male Hercules beetle, bringing them to a length of up to 7 inches. You can find Hercules beetles in Central and South America rainforests and the Caribbean islands.
In the remote regions of Papua New Guinea, you will find the butterfly species called Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing. This beautiful butterfly is also the largest in the world. It is so rare that a single specimen could cost thousands of dollars.
Regarding their body and wingspan, the females have a slightly larger body and wingspan than the males. The female's body can measure up to 3 inches with a wingspan of over 10 inches.
Sadly, the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing falls under an endangered species due to habitat destruction.
Mydas flies are a family that consists of some of the largest flies in the world. The Gauromydas heros, a mydas species, is the largest species of flies on our planet. It has a length of up to 2.8 inches and a wingspan of 3.9 inches.
These flies feed on other flies and satisfy their sweet tooth by drinking nectar. To trick predators into avoiding them, these flies mimic stinging wasps.
The Actaeon beetle is one of the biggest insects in the beetle world. It belongs to the family Scarabaeidae and is a rhinoceros beetle. This beetle is named after a famous Theban hunter in Greek mythology.
Its body measures about 50 to 120mm, and its dorsal surfaces are matte or shiny black. It has large tarsal claws and powerful legs. You will notice appendages resembling horns on the head of the male beetles. The females lay eggs, which take around nine months to develop.
The Actaeon beetle is also one of the heaviest insects. In 2009, experts found the heaviest Actaeon, weighing 228 grams in the northern regions of South America, nearly the same as a female rat.
Elephant beetles do not have a trunk or look like elephants, but these beetles are one of the largest insects on the earth. While they do not have trunks, the male species have horns, which they use to show dominance, competing for food and mates. The males are also bigger than the females. But these beetles can grow up to 5.11 in.
They are black but have yellowish hair, making them yellowish-black. You can find these creatures in tropical environments in parts of Mexico and South and Central America. Elephant beetles are herbivores and feed on sap and tree bark.
The Chinese mantis is a praying mantis species native to China and other parts of Asia. It has a long, slender body appearing in brown and green colors. It is longer than most praying mantises and grows between 2.75 and 4 in long.
The Chinese mantis is a carnivore and can tackle and eat large insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, moths, and spiders.
Found in the tropical South and Central America and Mexico, the Giant Red-winged grasshopper is one of the largest grasshoppers in the world. By wingspan, this grasshopper reaches up to 9.44 in.
Just like the name suggests, it has red wings in flight. On the other hand, the flightless nymphs come in dark and yellow stripes. You can find these grasshoppers in high and lowlands and humid and dry habitats.
Related Read: Grasshopper Facts.
We have many more insects worldwide with large body sizes, lengths, wingspan, weight, and even horn size. We’ve put together a little bit of everything. You can go through this article to find out some of the biggest insects in the world based on these measures.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.