The Biggest Insects In The World

By Ferdinand Bada on October 23 2018 in Environment

Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly.
Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly.

Insects are invertebrates belonging to the phylum of arthropod. On Earth, insects are easily the most numerous creatures in the world with their species numbering around one million. The use of the word “biggest” in this context is relative considering that a big insect may not even be close to the size of some of the smallest things in life. In addition, “biggest” may be referring to physical weight or it may be a reference to the length of the diminutive creatures. While looking at the size, then the biggest insect is the goliath beetle. In terms of body length, stick insects are the biggest.

10. Acteon Beetle

This large beetle is also found in the Amazon rainforest and has the potential of getting to five inches in length. The thickness of their bodies can get to 1.6 inches. Like most of the other beetles, it has a tough armor and strong legs for climbing trees. Because of their size, the beetles have few predators.

9. Giant Water Bug

Also known as the alligator tick or toe-biters, this enormous bug has some of biggest lengths among beetles. The bugs have the potential of having a length of up to four inches. The name “toe-biter” comes from their painful bite from their massive pincers. The bugs like to live in watery habitats such as streams and ponds. After grabbing prey, their beaks deliver the killing poison that digests the innards.

8. Queen Alexandra's Birdwing

This butterfly is the largest in the world with a wingspan of at least one foot. The butterflies can have a length of up to 3.25 inches and weigh as much as 0.4 ounces. The species, which only lives in Papua New Guinea’s remote areas, was discovered back in 1906. Currently, it is classified by the IUCN as endangered. One of the reasons for their endangerment is that poachers catch them and then sell them for hefty prices in the black market. Due to their massive size, a shotgun had to be used to take down the first specimen.

7. Giant Weta

The giant weta is an enormous bug that is widespread in New Zealand. The name “weta” stems from a Maori word that is a name for the god of ugly things. The bugs have been known to weigh up to 2.5 ounces. This weight is actually one of the largest documented weights of insects in the world. With that weight, the insect was heavier than a small bird such as a sparrow. However, due to their massive weights, they cannot fly. Their body lengths can go as far much as four inches excluding the antenna and the head.

6. Giant Burrowing Cockroach

This insect can have lengths of up to 3.3 inches and weigh up to 1.18 ounces. Also known as the rhinoceros cockroach or the litterbug, this cockroach plays a crucial role in the ecosystem by helping in the decomposition of dead leaves. Physically, it does not have wings so it cannot fly, which is also another reason why people keep them as pets. The insects have a long lifespan of up to 10 years.

5. Goliath Beetle

The Goliath beetle’s name is actually based on the giant Goliath in the Bible. The name is fitting since they have some of the largest weights among insects in the world. The beetles are native to Africa and have the potential of weighing as much as 3.5 ounces in the larval phase. Looking at their lengths, they can be as long as more than four inches. In the mornings, they are heavily sluggish until the later stages of the day after the sun comes out. During their sluggish state, it is easy to capture them since they cannot fly as actively as during the day. In the wild, they feed on tree sap although some eat protein in captivity.

4. Tarantula Hawk

This insect is a wasp with a length of about 2.7 inches and a wingspan of about 4.5 inches. The legs of this insect have hook-like structures that are useful for grasping prey. After grasping the prey, they use a stinger to inject paralyzing venom before killing the prey. Despite their nature, they are mostly docile. The offspring of the hawk is bigger than that of most insects.

3. Atlas moth

The Atlas moth, one of the largest moths in the world, is widespread in the Malay Archipelago and can be as big as some birds. On average, their wings have an area of about 60 square inches. Fully spread, they have a wingspan of at least one foot. Their caterpillars can have a thickness of up to one inch. Interestingly, their large cocoons are used as purses in some parts of the world such as Taiwan. The name “Atlas” is said to stem from Greek mythology from the god Atlas who was punished by Zeus to carry the sky on his shoulders. The moth lives in dry rainforests, shrublands, and secondary forests.

2. Giant Stick Insects

As the name suggests, stick insects have thin stick-like bodies that have massive lengths of up to two feet. The current shape that these insects have is actually an evolution in their quest to hide from predators through camouflaging themselves in branches, foliage, and twigs. The nocturnal insects prefer to hide in vegetation during the day while waiting for darkness. As a defense mechanism, they can either emit a pungent-smelling liquid or even feign death in order to drive predators away. However, stick insects are largely harmless, which is why some people keep them as pets.

1. Titan Beetle

Editorial credit: Ramukanji /

This beetle is among the largest insects in the world, with lengths of up to 6.6 inches. The Hercules beetle is also a big insect with a length of up to 6.9 inches. However, Hercules beetles have a horn-like protrusion that is about half of their body length, which is why titan beetles are considered bigger. Titan beetles live in habitats around South America, especially in the Amazon rain forests. The beetle has large mandibles that are strong enough to snap pencil-sized sticks in half. When threated, it makes a hissing sound to scare away would-be predators. In addition, it is one of the tourist attractions in the regions it inhabits.

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