It’s estimated that there are millions of species of insects in the world. While many of these species are solely found on the ground — if they’ve been found at all so far! — a surprisingly large number of these global creepy-crawlies are also able to take to the sky. While you may think of mosquitoes or gnats when you think of flying insects, this list of the top 10 largest flying insects in the world will show you just how diverse these fascinating bugs are.
Ready to learn more about which flying insects are the largest? Let’s dive in!
1. White Witch Moth
When it comes to wingspan, you won’t find many insects out there larger than the white witch moth (Thysania agrippina). While other species of flying insects may have the white witch moth beat when it comes to wing area — specifically the Atlas moth and the Hercules moth — this “ghost moth” has the largest wingspan.
Wondering just how large this giant flying insect is? One specimen from Brazil measured in with a wingspan of around 12 inches. That’s the same as a two-liter soda bottle!
The white witch is found most commonly in Central and northern South America, but there have also been specimens as far north as Texas.
2. Titan Beetles
While the white witch moth may be the largest flying insect in the world based on wingspan, the titan beetle is one of the largest beetles in the world — as well as one of the largest flying insects!
The titan beetle (Titanus giganteus) is the only species in the Titanus genus. Specimens have been found as large as 6.6 inches long — around the same length as a pencil. So far, scientists have been unable to find any juvenile forms of the titan beetle. However, scientists do know that these super-sized fliers utilize their wings when searching for a mate.
If their size isn’t surprising enough, many studies note the titan beetle for its vocal abilities. In fact, they’ll defend themselves by hissing before using their strong jaws.
3. Goliath Beetles
So far, most of the largest flying insects live in Central and South America. However, the Goliath beetle (genus Goliathus) takes us across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa, specifically the tropic forests dotting the continent.
The largest Goliath beetles are males, and they can measure up to 4.3 inches long. Females are a bit smaller, with a maximum size of 3.1 inches. While adult Goliath beetles only weigh up to around 1.5 ounces, they can be double this weight in their larval stage.
One feature that adds to the size of the Goliath beetle is the large Y-shaped “horns” that male beetles sport. Beetles use these horns for mating, where male beetles will go head to head (literally!) to impress females.
4. Atlas Moth
Animal Crossing fans may recognize this super-sized flying insect. Attacus atlas, or the Atlas moth, takes us even further east to the forests of Asia (although a single specimen was found in England in 2012).
While the Atlas moth’s wingspan is a bit smaller than the white witch moth’s at 9.4 inches, they have a large wing area — around 25 square inches. Although they’re known for their super-sized wings, the Atlas moth has a small body.
Their English name comes from a reference to Greek mythology and the Titan Atlas. However, in Cantonese, their name refers to their snake-head-like appearance.
5. Tarantula Hawk
The tarantula hawk can be found in most places in the world, from the deserts of the United States to Europe and even as far south as Australia. While their size of 2 inches makes them one of the smallest of the largest flying insects in the world, they’re still one of the largest wasp species.
Only a female tarantula hawk has a stinger. Their stinger alone can be nearly half an inch long (7 mm to be exact), and many studies have described their sting as one of the most painful in the world. However, they don’t use this stinger to kill as they mostly eat fermented fruit. Instead, they use it to inject a paralyzing venom into tarantulas, which they then lay their eggs in.
6. Queen Alexandra’s Birdwings
With around 17,500 species of butterflies in the world, it’s no surprise that at least one has made its way onto the list of the largest flying insects.
Ornithoptera alexandrae, also known commonly as Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, is the largest species of butterfly in the world. They’re found in eastern Papua New Guinea, specifically in the forests of the Oro Province.
Female birdwings of this species can grow to have a wingspan of around 11 inches, making them only around an inch smaller than the white witch moth. Their bodies, however, are only around three inches long, and they weigh less than half an ounce.
7. Mydas Fly
At a glance, the Mydas fly can be intimidating. Not only are they one of the largest flying insects in the world (as well as the largest species of fly) but they also resemble an oversized wasp. However, despite their daunting appearance, the Mydas fly is harmless to humans.
The Mydas fly grows to be just a little less than 2.5 inches long. You can find the Mydas fly in a variety of habitats across the world.
8. Hercules Beetle
The Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules) is a type of rhinoceros beetle, a subfamily of beetles known for their large sizes and unique horns. You can find them in Central and South America, typically in the rainforests.
Not only is the Hercules beetle one of the largest flying insects, but they’re also the longest beetle in the world — right there with the Goliath beetle. While their bodies only grow to be a little longer than 3 inches long, their horn can lead to them growing to be around 7 inches long. However, typically only males have these horns.
While their larvae can’t fly, it’s still worth mentioning just how large they are. Some Hercules beetle larvae can grow up to 4.5 inches and weigh almost a quarter of a pound.
9. Tropidacris Grasshoppers
Tropidacris is a genus of grasshopper with three species all found in Central and/or Southern America. They’re some of the largest species of grasshoppers in the entire world, as well as some of the largest flying insects, with wingspans up to 9.1 inches.
They also sport an impressive body length of up to 4.7 inches, making them much larger than similar wing-sized insects like the Atlas moth.
10. Giant Water Bug
When you think of water bugs, you probably don’t think of an airborne insect. However, despite spending the majority of its time in the water, the giant water bug is also capable of flying. Like many of the largest flying insects in the world featured on this list, the giant water bug can grow to lengths around 2.5 inches.
Summary of 10 of the Largest Flying Insects in the World
Here’s a recap of 10 of the world’s biggest insects capable of flying.
|White Witch Moth
|One specimen from Brazil had a wingspan of around 12 inches
|Specimens have been found as large as 6.6 inches long
|Males can measure up to 4.3 inches long, females up to 3.1 inches
|Wingspan is 9.4 inches, but have a large wing area of around 25 square inches
|Sizes of 2 inches, with a stinger that can be nearly half an inch long
|Queen Alexandra’s Birdwings
|Females’ wingspan can be around 11 inches
|Grows to be a little less than 2.5 inches long
|Bodies grow to be a little longer than 3 inches long; horn can lead to them growing to be around 7 inches long
|Impressive body length of up to 4.7 inches
|Giant Water Bug
|Can grow to lengths of around 2.5 inches
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/ViniSouza128
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