List of largest insects

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Megaloblatta, the world's largest cockroach spreading its wings

Insects, which are a type of arthropod, are the most numerous group of multicellular organisms on the planet, with over a million species identified so far.[1] The title of heaviest insect in the world has many contenders, the most frequently crowned of which is the larval stage of the goliath beetle, Goliathus goliatus, the maximum size of which is at least 115 g (4.1 oz) and 11.5 cm (4.5 in). The highest confirmed weight of an adult insect is 71 g (2.5 oz) for a giant weta, Deinacrida heteracantha,[2] although it is likely one of the elephant beetles, Megasoma elephas and Megasoma actaeon, or goliath beetles, both of which can commonly exceed 50 g (1.8 oz) and 10 cm (3.9 in), can reach a greater weight.[2]

The longest insects are the stick insects, see below.

Representatives of the extinct dragonfly-like order Meganisoptera (also known as griffinflies) such as the Carboniferous Meganeura monyi and the Permian Meganeuropsis permiana are the largest insect species ever known. These creatures had a wingspan of some 71 cm (28 in). Their maximum body mass is uncertain, with estimates varying between 34 g[3] and 240 g.[4]

Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata)[edit]

The largest living species of odonate (the order that includes dragonflies and damselflies) is Megaloprepus caerulatus, reaching 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) in wingspan, Tetracanthagyna plagiata of Southeast Asia is bulkier and heavier than Megaloprepus at up to 7 g (0.25 oz) 190 mm (7.5 in) across the wings and a body length of over 120 mm (4.7 in).

See also the extinct genera Meganeuropsis and Meganeura, although they are not certain to be included in the modern dragonfly order.

Mayflies (Ephemeroptera)[edit]

The largest mayflies are members of the genus Proboscidoplocia from Madagascar. These insects can reach a length of 5 cm (2.0 in).

Palaeodictyoptera (extinct)[edit]

The largest insect of the Palaeodictyoptera order, Mazothairos enormis from the Carboniferous period reached a wingspan of about 56 centimeters (22 in).[5]

Grasshoppers, crickets, and relatives (Orthoptera)[edit]

Arachnacris katydids and Tropidacris grasshoppers reach up to 12–15 cm (4.7–5.9 in) in length and 23–27.5 cm (9.1–10.8 in) in wingspan, making them the largest by these measurements.[6][7] The largest Saga and Pseudophyllus bush crickets are only a few centimeters smaller.[7]

The heaviest of this widespread, varied complex of insects is the Little Barrier Island giant weta, Deinacrida heteracantha, of New Zealand; one specimen weighed 71 g (2.5 oz) and measured nearly 10 cm (3.9 in),[2] giving it one of the largest insects weights ever known. These heavyweight insects can be over 9 cm (3.5 in) long.[8] The largest grasshopper species is often considered to be the Australian giant grasshopper (Valanga irregularis), which ranges up to 9 cm (3.5 in) in length.[9] The American eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea guttata) can allegedly range up to 10 cm (3.9 in) in length.[10] However, the greatest grasshopper sizes known, to 12 cm (4.7 in), have been cited in the South American giant grasshopper (Tropidacris violaceus). The longest members of this order (although much lighter than the giant wetas) is the katydid Macrolyristes corporalis of Southeast Asia which can range up to 21.5 cm (8.5 in) with its long legs extended and can have a wingspan of 20 cm (7.9 in).[11]

Titanopterans (Titanoptera) (extinct)[edit]

Related to modern orthopterans, Triassic insects of the extinct suborder of Titanoptera[12] surpassed them in size. The wingspan of Gigatitan vulgaris was as large as of 40 centimetres (16 in).[13] Clatrotitan andersoni also reached a huge size, having a forewing of 13.8 centimetres (5.4 in) long.[14]

Earwigs (Dermaptera)[edit]

The largest of the earwigs is the Saint Helena earwig (Labidura herculeana), which is up to 8.4 cm (3.3 in) in length. There are no recent records of this species and it is generally considered extinct.[15] The largest certainly living species is the Australian giant earwig (Titanolabis colossea), which is about 5 cm (2.0 in) long.[7]

Scorpionflies (Mecoptera)[edit]

The largest scorpionfly, the common scorpionfly (Panorpa communis), can reach a body length of about 30 mm (1.2 in).[16][full citation needed]

Alderflies and allies (Megaloptera)[edit]

This relatively small insect order includes some rather large species, many of which are noticeable for their elongated, imposing mandibles. The dobsonflies reach the greatest sizes of the order and can range up to 12.5 cm (4.9 in) in length.[17]

Stick insects (Phasmatodea)[edit]

Phobaeticus serratipes, one of the longest stick insects
Distributions of stick insect species known to exceed 50cm in total length

The longest known stick insects are also the longest known insects, notably species in the tribe Pharnaciini, but they are generally relatively lightweight because of their slender shape. The longest is an unnamed species of Phryganistria discovered in China in 2016, where a specimen held at the Insect Museum of West China in Chengdu has a total length of 62.4 cm (24.6 in).[18] The second-longest species is the Australian Ctenomorpha gargantua, females of which have been measured at over 60 cm (24 in) in total length.[19] Other very large species, formerly believed to be longest but now considered third longest is Sadyattes chani; a specimen held in the Natural History Museum in London has a total length of 56.7 cm (22.3 in).[20][21] These measurements are, however, with the front legs fully extended; it has a body length measuring 35.7 cm (14.1 in).[22] Another very large species is Phobaeticus kirbyi where the total length (including extended legs) is up to 54.6 cm (21.5 in) and the body alone up to 32.8 cm (12.9 in).[23] Another of the longest insect in terms of total length is Phobaeticus serratipes of Malaysia and Singapore, measuring up to 55.5 cm (21.9 in).[24] Another extremely long stick insect is Pharnacia maxima, which measured 51 cm (20 in) with its legs extended.[8] The spiny stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) of Malaysia does not reach the extreme lengths of its cousins, the body reaching up to 16 cm (6.3 in) long, but it is much bulkier. The largest Heteropteryx weighed about 65 g (2.3 oz) and was 3.5 cm (1.4 in) wide across the thickest part of the body.[8]

Cockroaches and termites (Blattodea)[edit]

The largest cockroach in length and wingspan is the South and Central American Megaloblatta, at up to 9.7 cm (3.8 in) and 18–20 cm (7.1–7.9 in), respectively.[6][25] Another contender for longest is Blaberus giganteus, which is found in the same general region and may reach a length of up to 9 or 10 cm (3.5 or 3.9 in), depending on source.[26][27] The heaviest is the Australian giant burrowing cockroach (Macropanesthia rhinoceros), which can attain a length of 8.4 cm (3.3 in) and a weight of 33.5 g (1.18 oz).[6]


The largest of the termites is the African species Macrotermes bellicosus. The queen of this species can attain a length of 10.6 cm (4.2 in) and breadth of 5.5 cm (2.2 in); other adults, however, are about a third of this size.

Praying mantises (Mantodea)[edit]

The giant stick mantises Toxodera maxima and Ischnomantis gigas can reach lengths of over 17 cm, but are more gracile in build than other large mantises. Other species of (Toxodera and Ischnomantis) and other genera of stick mantises (Heterochaeta, Solygia and Tauromantis) can attain lengths almost as large (over 16 cm). Giant shield mantises of the genus Rhombodera (of which Rhombodera fratricida is the largest formally described by science) can reach lengths of nearly 12 cm (4.7 in) and are more robust than comparably sized mantises of other genera (Tenodera, Macromantis, Hierodula, Idolomantis, Sphodromantis, Deroplatys, Plistospilota, Tamolanica, Stagmatoptera and Titanodula). Some larger species have been known to capture and consume frogs, lizards, mice, small birds, small fish and even small snakes.

True bugs (Hemiptera)[edit]

Giant water bug walking over land

The largest species of this diverse, huge order are the giant water bugs Lethocerus grandis and L. maximus.[28] These can surpass a length of 12 cm (4.7 in),[29] although they are more slender and less heavy than most other insects of this size (principally the huge beetles). The largest cicada is Megapomponia imperatoria, which has a head-body length of about 7 cm (2.8 in) and a wingspan of 18–20 cm (7–8 in).[30][31] The cicadas of the genus Tacua can also grow to comparably large sizes. The largest type of aphid is the giant oak aphid (Stomaphis quercus), which can reach an overall length of 2 cm (0.79 in).[32] The biggest species of leafhopper is Ledromorpha planirostris, which can reach a length of 2.8 cm (1.1 in).[33]

Dobsonflies and relatives (Megaloptera)[edit]

Megaloptera includes dobsonflies, alderflies and relatives. The largest is the dobsonfly Acanthacorydalis fruhstorferi, which can have a wingspan of up to 21.6 cm (8.5 in), making it the largest aquatic insect in the world by this measurement.[34] This species is native to China and Vietnam, and its body can be up to 10.5 cm (4.1 in) long.[35]

Net-winged insects (Neuroptera)[edit]

These flying insects reach their largest size in Palparellus voeltzkowi, which can have a wingspan over 16 cm (6.3 in).[36] The largest lacewing is the Australian "blue eyes lacewing" (Nymphes myrmeleonides), which can measure up to 4 cm (1.6 in) in length and span 11 cm (4.3 in) across the wings.[37] Some forms of this ancient order could grow extremely large during the Jurassic period and may have ranked among the largest insects ever.[38] Found in the Early Cretaceous sedimentary rocks, Makarkinia adamsi had wings nearly 140–160 mm (5.5–6.3 in) in length.[39]

Lice (Phthiraptera)[edit]

These parasitic insects are typically modest in size. The largest known species is the hog louse, Haematopinus suis, a sucking louse that lives on large livestock like pigs and cattle. It can range up to 6 mm (0.24 in) in length.[40]

Stoneflies (Plecoptera)[edit]

The largest species of stonefly is Pteronarcys californica of western North America, a species favored by fishermen as lures. This species can attain a length of 5 cm (2.0 in) and a wingspan of over 8 cm (3.1 in).[41]

Beetles (Coleoptera)[edit]

The hercules beetle, the world's longest beetle

Beetles constitute the most diverse order of organisms on earth, with about 400,000 species identified to this day. The most massive of them belong to the genera Goliathus, Megasoma, Chalcosoma, Titanus, Macrodontia, and Xixuthrus. The longest is the Hercules beetle, Dynastes hercules, with a maximum overall length of at least 18.1 cm (7.1 in) including the very long pronotal horn. The longest overall beetle is a species of longhorn beetle, Batocera wallacei, from New Guinea, which can attain a length of 26.6 cm (10.5 in), about 19 cm (7.5 in) of which is comprised by the long antennae.[8]

Icebugs (Grylloblattodea)[edit]

The largest icebug species, Grylloblatta campodeiformis, 3 cm (1.2 in) long, excluding ovipositors and cerci, and are fairly elongate, wingless insects. They are a uniform honey-yellow in colour and covered with very short hair. Unlike some other species of grylloblatid, G. campodeiformis has eyes which have roughly 70 facets. The head is fairly flat and rounded. The thorax is elongate and over a third of the body length. The abdomen is composed of 10 segments and over half the body length. The legs are long and narrow (cursorial) with stout coxae and long femora.[42] Their antennae are long ~9 mm (0.35 in) and thread-like. In adults, the number of antennal subsegments is variable, ranging from 24 to 27.[43]

Ants, bees, and wasps (Hymenoptera)[edit]

Megachile pluto, the largest bee.

The largest of ants, and the heaviest species of the family, are the females of Dorylus helvolus, reaching a length of 5 cm (2.0 in). The ant that averages the largest for the mean size of the whole colony is Dinoponera gigantea, averaging up to 3.3 cm (1+14 in). Another ant that is native to Australia, Myrmecia brevinoda, workers are reported to be 3.7 cm (1.5 in) on average and queens are more than 4 cm (1.6 in) in length.[8]

The largest of bees is Megachile pluto, the females of which can be 3.8 cm (1+12 in) long, with a 6.3-cm (2.5-in) wingspan.

The largest wasp is probably the so-called tarantula hawk species Pepsis pulszkyi, measuring up to 6.8 cm (2.7 in) in length and 11.6 cm (4+12 in) in wingspan, although many other Pepsis species approach a similar size. The giant scoliid wasp Megascolia procer may rival the tarantula hawks in weight, if not length and wingspan. The largest known social wasps are queens of the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), which can reach a body length exceeding 5 cm long with a 7.6 cm (3.0 in) wingspan.[44]

Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera)[edit]

The Queen Alexandra's birdwing is the largest species of butterfly.

The largest lepidopteran species overall is often claimed to be either the Queen Alexandra's birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae), a butterfly from Papua New Guinea, or the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), a moth from Southeast Asia. Both of these species can reach a length of 8 cm (3.1 in), a wingspan of 28 cm (11 in) and a weight of 12 g (0.42 oz). One Atlas moth allegedly had a wingspan of 30 cm (12 in) but this measurement was not verified.[8] The larvae in the previous species can weigh up to 58 and 54 g (2.0 and 1.9 oz), respectively. However, the white witch of Central and South America, Thysania agrippina, has the widest recorded wingspan of the order, and indeed of any living insect, at up to 30 cm (12 in). The verified record-sized Thysania spanned 30.8 cm (12.1 in) across the wings, although specimens have been reported to 36 cm (14 in).[8]The largest moth in terms of body mass is the giant wood moth Endoxyla cinereus. Despite having a smaller wingspan than the other species, it has a mass of about 30 g (1.1 oz) and outweighs them all. The Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules), in the family Saturniidae, is endemic to New Guinea and northern Australia, and its wings have the largest documented surface area (300 square centimeters) of any living insect,[45][46] and a maximum wingspan which is confirmed to 28 cm (11 in) while unconfirmed specimens have spanned up to 35.5 cm (14.0 in).

True flies (Diptera)[edit]

Gauromydas heros, the world's largest true fly

The largest species of this huge order is Gauromydas heros, which can reach a length of 6 cm (2+14 in) and a wingspan of 10 cm (3.9 in).[6] The largest species of crane fly (which are much thinner than Gauromydas) is Holorusia brobdignagius. It can attain about the same head-and-body length and wingspan, but if the legs are extended in front of and behind the body, then an overall length of 23 cm (9.1 in) makes it the longest true fly.[6]

Booklice (Psocoptera)[edit]

The largest of this order of very small insects is the barklouse of the genus Psocus, the top size of which is about 1 cm (0.39 in).

Fleas (Siphonaptera)[edit]

The largest species of flea is Hystrichopsylla schefferi. This parasite, known exclusively from the fur of the mountain beaver, can reach a length of 1.2 cm (0.47 in).[47]

Thrips (Thysanoptera)[edit]

Members of the genus Phasmothrips are the largest thrips. The maximum size of these species is about 1.3 cm (0.51 in).

Caddisflies (Trichoptera)[edit]

The largest of the small, moth-like caddisflies is Eubasilissa maclachlani. This species can range up to 7 cm (2.8 in) across the wings.[48]

Silverfishes and allies (Thysanura)[edit]

These insects, known to feed on human household objects, are up to 4.3 cm (1.7 in) in length. One 350 million-year-old form grew up to 6 cm (2.4 in) long.[citation needed]

Angel insects (Zoraptera)[edit]

The largest angel insect species, Hubbard's angel insect (Zorotypus hubbardi), grows up to 3 mm (0.12 in) in length.[49][50]

See also[edit]


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  33. ^ Ledromorpha planirostris.
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  40. ^ ADW: Haematopinus suis: Information.
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  48. ^ – Discussion Forum: The LARGEST caddisfly of the world.
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