The answer depends on how you define “largest.” We had to decide if we were looking for the largest in weight, length, wingspan, or bulk. Here are five of the generally acknowledged giants of the insect world:
· Megasoma acteon. South America’s male Acteon Beetle is one of the bulkiest of the abundant order of beetles, and it is often considered the “largest” in the world. The males can grow to be 3.5″ long by 2″ wide by 1.5″ thick.
· Deinacrida heteracantha. The heaviest insect on record was a pregnant Giant Weta, a rare and endangered New Zealand species that weighed in at 71 grams (just over 2 ounces).
· Titanus giganteus. The extremely rare South American Longhorn Beetle checks in from time to time at lengths greater 6″ long. In his 1874 work, Insects Abroad, the Reverend J.G. Wood reports on a 9″ long Titanus specimen. Could it be that this legendary, but undocumented beetle was measured with antennae extended? Average Titanus specimens check in well over 5″ on average.
· Megasoma elephas, Goliathus goliatus, and Goliathus regius. These gargantuan scarabs, the Goliath beetles, have the greatest visible body mass. A Megasoma has been observed in captivity to consume an entire avocado in one day, but much of the comparative weight data gathered by entomologists comes from the dry weight of beetle exoskeletons.
· Pharnacia kirbyi or Pharnacia serritypes. The female of the species of this Borneo stick-insect can be over 14″ long, but she’s thin as a rail.
If you want to consider fossil insects, the extinct Meganeura had a wingspan of more than 2.5 feet.
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