Yes, yes, I know that true bugs are only from the order Hemiptera, but I’m using “bugs” in the vernacular, as “insects.”
Scientific American reports, in an article by Bec Crew, the discovery of the world’s largest aquatic insect. Well, it’s the world’s largest known aquatic insect.
Images have surfaced of a newly discovered insect reported to be the largest aquatic insect in the world. Found in the mountains of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province, the specimen boasts a wingspan of 21 cm. While very little is known about the specimen at this point, it’s been identified as belonging to the order Megaloptera, which includes about 300 described species of winged alderflies, dobsonflies and fishflies.
Just as this new find is so far pretty mysterious, members of Megaloptera are also fairly poorly known. As larvae, they spend all of their time in the water, only venturing out once it’s time to pupate and become adults. While they’re usually found in clean, clear streams, rivers, swamps, ponds and lakes, they’re also perfectly capable of sustaining themselves in muddy and polluted water, which makes them extra hard to spot.
Yes, that’s a chicken’s egg next to this creature, and for those of you who are metric-disadvantaged, 21 cm is about 8.25 inches (just divide centimeters by 2.54). And of course by “aquatic insect,” Crew means, “adult insect which spends its larval stages in water.”
As adults, they enjoy relatively short lifespans, and use the vast majority of this time to find mates. They end up with enormous tusk-like mandibles and mouthparts as adults, but at this point they’re pretty much done eating anything at all, so the males use them to attract females and then hold them in place while they mate.
As Crew reports, this is not the heaviest adult insect in the world; that honor goes to the Little Barrier Island giant weta, Deinacrida heteracantha, a wingless cricketlike insect from an island off New Zealand. One of these monsters weighed in at 71 grams (again, that’s 2.8 ounces; divide by 28.3).That is three times heavier than a house mouse, but the insect was abnormally gravid (full of eggs).
I’m sure you want to see one; here’s a picture taken from a Gizmodo article:
What about the largest of all insects? Sure enough, Wikipedia has a page of “largest insects,” measured in various ways—weight, length, etc. And if you consider larvae instead of just adults, then there’s something that outweighs the giant weta:
The title of heaviest insect in the world has many rivals, the most frequently crowned of which is the larval stage of the goliath beetle, Goliathus goliatus, the top size of which is at least 115 g (4.1 oz) and 11.5 cm (4.5 in).
Wanna see it? Here (it’s from central Africa):
The Wikipedia page is fascinating, and is precisely the kind of Internet site on which biologists waste precious time. But I can’t help but provide one more fact: the longest known insect:
The longest known stick insect is Phobaeticus chani, with one specimen held in the Natural History Museum in London measuring 567 mm (22.3 in) in total length. This measurement is, however, with the front legs fully extended.
It’s other name is “Chan’s megastick,” named after a Malaysian naturalist.
Here you go:
Only six specimens of this insect are known; all come from Sabah in Borneo.