The Top 10 Largest Insects in the World

Written by Dana Mayor
Updated: June 22, 2023
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Key Points:
  • The commonly held view is that the biggest insect in the world is the Giant wētā, a large flightless cricket that can weigh nearly three ounces and measure up to four inches long. They are native to New Zealand and known as “god of ugly things” in the indigenous Maori language.
  • The largest fly in the world is the mydas fly, which has evolved the ability to mimic stinging wasps and bees to trick predators into avoiding them.
  • The walking stick insect Phryganistria Chinensis, which is native to China, has been known to get up to 25 inches long! However, due to their thin tube-like bodies, they weigh very little.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, gigantic insects once roamed the planet (including a dragonfly that measured 28 inches). Why have insects since become so small? The most important reason for this is due to the limited size of the insects’ air pipes.

When the oxygen content in the air is high, as it was millions of years in the past, insects can grow to staggering sizes. But if the oxygen in the air is more limited, as it is today, then the bottleneck in the air pipe becomes a restricting factor.

It might be a good thing that insects have evolved to be so small because even the sight of one can send a shiver down people’s spines. But there are still several species around the world that can almost reach the size of insects from the past. Most of them reside in remote rainforests, rarely encountered by people. There are multiple ways to measure size: body and leg length, weight, volume, wingspan, and even horn size.

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We have shared all of these different measures for determining the largest insects in the world with our reasoning below, but also wanted to confirm that the commonly held view is that the biggest insect in the world is the Giant wētā, large flightless crickets that can weight nearly 3 ounces and up to 4 inches long. There are 11 recognized species of giant wetas. They are endemic to New Zealand. They have sharp, spiny legs for defense.

Infographic of 10 Largest Insects in the World
Different measurements have been used to determine insects’ size, including body length and wingspan.

#10 Hercules Beetle

Named after the famous hero of Greek mythology, this enormous species of rhinoceros beetle hails from the rainforests of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean islands. The most prominent characteristic is the huge horn that extends from the thorax (as well as a second horn that emerges from the head) of the male beetle. The female completely lacks this unique accouterment.

As a result, the male Hercules beetle can measure up to 7 inches long (depending on its nutritional intake and some environmental conditions), but the horn makes up nearly half of the entire body length and so it’s difficult to make direct comparisons to other types of insects.

The Hercules beetle isn’t the largest insect in the world, but it is still worthy enough to be on our list!

The beetle’s larval stage, which lasts about two years and features three different metamorphosis stages, can grow nearly 5 inches in length as well.

Read more about the gigantic Hercules beetle here.

Largest Insects - Hercules Beetle

The Hercules Beetle’s horn makes up nearly half of its body length.


#9 Titan Beetle

Measuring up to 6.5 inches long, the titan beetle is endemic to the Amazon rainforests. Although technically smaller than the Hercules beetle, this species actually has a much bigger body, since it completely lacks a horn of any kind.

When threatened, the beetle will make a hissing sound and attempt to defend itself. The large mandibles and strong jaw give it a powerful biting force that can pierce human skin and even snap a pencil in half.

The larva of this beetle has never actually been observed by scientists, but it’s been estimated, based on the size of boreholes of trees, that the larvae can grow up to an astonishing foot long. It’s believed that the larva gathers enormous energy so that it will not need to feed as an adult.

The Titan is so large that its wings cannot take off from the ground. It must launch from a tree in order to fly. This insect is huge, but it still isn’t the largest insect in the world.

Read more about beetles, in general, here.

Largest Insects - Titan Beetle

The Titan Beetle has a powerful bite that can pierce human skin and even snap a pencil in half.


#8 Stick Insects

The stick insects (also known by many other names, including walking sticks, leaf insects, and ghost insects) are a vast order of insects that consists of than 3,000 species, almost all of them characterized by a spindly, flat, tube-like appearance.

They have evolved the ability to hide from predators by blending in with the very branches and leaves they resemble. Some even wield lichen or mossy outgrowth to make the camouflage appear extra convincing. These creatures are the largest insect in the world that looks like a stick.

Stick insects have some interesting defense mechanisms. For one, they can lose a leg in order to escape the captivity of a predator, and later regenerate it. And if that doesn’t work, they can resort to playing dead. They will simply throw themselves off of whatever perch they are on and lie perfectly still to blend in to the landscape. If successful, the predator won’t be able to find them or lose interest when the critter lacks movement.

Most species of stick insects measure at least a foot long. The longest of all stick insects (and insects in general) is a species called Phryganistria chinensis. First discovered in China in 2016, it can reach 25 inches long, or about the size of that ancient dragonfly.

The next two largest stick insect species measure about 22 inches. Despite their impressive length, however, the stick insect’s flat, tube-shaped body means that they weigh only a fraction of what you’d expect.

Read more about the spindly stick insects here.

Largest Insects - Stick Insects

There are more than 3,000 species of stick insects in the world.

©Brian Lasenby/

#7 Goliath Beetles

The goliath beetle is a genus of five currently recognized species that inhabit the tropical rainforests of Africa. The most prominent physical characteristics are the striking and unusual patterns and markings on their back. While these beetles only measure about 3 to 4.5 inches long, they easily make up for it with their impressive bulk.

An adult beetle weighs more than 2 ounces, which is quite heavy for an insect. But this actually pales in comparison to the larval stage, which weighs 3.5 ounces and reaches almost 10 inches in length, making it one of the largest insects on the planet by almost any metric.

Little information is actually known about the behavior of wild larvae, however.

Largest Insects - Goliath Beetles

Goliath beetles are known for their striking, unusual markings on their backs.


#6 Moths

Moths belong on this list on account of their huge wingspans. While there are many impressive species, the atlas moth, which hails from the tropical forests and shrublands of Asia, is probably the largest of its kind. It features a wingspan of up to 11 inches and a wing surface of about 25 square inches.

Only the white witch, Attacus Caesar, and Hercules moths come close to eclipsing it, although, given their different wing shapes, it’s difficult to make a direct comparison between them.

Curiously, the body of the atlas moth is disproportionately small in comparison to the orange and white wings, which almost look like brilliant, swirling jewels. These types of moths might be the biggest insect in the world with this large a wingspan.

Read more about the fascinating world of moths here.

Largest Insects - Moths

Moths have the largest wingspan in the world of insects.

©Simia Attentive/

#5 Giant Weta

The weta, which actually means “god of ugly things” in the indigenous language of Maori, is completely endemic to New Zealand and its surrounding offshore islands. These large flightless crickets grow up to 4 inches long and weigh about 2.5 ounces.

There are 11 recognized species of giant wetas, which live in trees and shrubs but come down to the ground for mating. When they’re threatened, the wetas can defend themselves with their sharp, spiny legs.

Since New Zealand was almost completely free of many mammalian species before the arrival of people, scientists believe that the wetas evolved to occupy a similar niche as rodents; hence, their rodent-like size.

But the introduction of actual rodents to the island with each new wave of colonization had a devastating effect on weta numbers. Some populations are now under the protection of the government and have recovered slightly, but they still face many challenges.

Largest Insects - Giant Weta

The giant weta is the largest flightless cricket.

©Viktor Hejna/

#4 Butterflies

There are many examples of massive butterflies, including the Jamaican swallowtail, Miranada birdwing, and Rippon’s birdwing, but the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing stands above the rest. Named in honor of Queen Alexandra, who was at the time the wife of King Edward VII of Britain.

This inhabitant of New Guinea is the largest species of butterfly in the world. It exhibits a strong degree of sexual dimorphism, meaning that the sexes have radically different appearances.

The females are the larger of the two sexes, with a body size of up to 3 inches and a wingspan of 11 inches and brown wings with white markings arranged into two rows near the tips. The males have thinner and more angular wings, measuring about 6 to 8 inches from tip to tip, with black central bands and iridescent bluish-green outer areas.

Read more about butterflies here.

Largest Insects - Butterflies

Queen Alexandra is the biggest butterfly, with a wingspan of 11 inches.

©Russell Marshall/

#3 Tropidacris Grasshoppers

Tropidacris is a genus of grasshoppers that contains three different species. This genus doesn’t have a standard name, so instead, it merely goes by the scientific name of Tropidacris. Found scattered across Central and South America, these grasshoppers are among the largest of their kind with a body measuring up to 5 inches.

While the nymphs sometimes exhibit black and yellow warning colorations possibly to dissuade predators, the adults are more green, yellow, and brown to help provide camouflage against the backdrop of the surrounding vegetation. Their brilliant multi-colored wings, which measure about 9 inches from tip to tip, kind of resemble leaves. Otherwise, they look like oversized grasshoppers.

You can read more about grasshoppers here.

Largest Insects - Tropidacris Grasshoppers

The Tropidacris is unique for its multi-colored wings.


#2 Tarantula Hawks

The runner-up in our quest for the largest bug in the world is the tarantula hawk, which belongs to a group of several spider wasp species. Their names are derived for their tendency to consume tarantulas, which can make for quite a gruesome process. The wasp will immobilize the spider with its sting and then bring back the unfortunate creature to the nest. The newly hatched larva will then consume the tarantula whole.

Once it has reached the adult phase, the largest species of tarantula hawks have a length of 2.7 inches and a wingspan of 4.5 inches. For an unfortunate human, an adult wasp can deliver an excruciating sting. But unless it triggers an allergic reaction, the sting shouldn’t require serious medical attention.

Read more about wasps here.

Largest Insects - Tarantula Hawks

Tarantula hawks are such dangerous wasps that they can consume tarantula spiders.

©Sari ONeal/

#1 Mydas Flies

The mydas is a large family of flies that contains nearly 500 separate species. Most of these are endemic to arid or semiarid regions all over the world. As their main means of defense, some species have evolved the ability to mimic the more dangerous stinging wasps and bees. This is intended to trick predators into avoiding them.

Mydas flies are also considered a natural form of pest control. Their larvae, which hatch from eggs laid close to decaying matter, will feed on other grubs, possibly preventing the threat they pose to cultivated plants. Each member has the right to the title of the largest bug in the world.

In spite of their large sizes, these insects are pretty agile when they fly and they not only love to snack on other flies, but also indulge their sweet tooth by drinking nectar.

The largest species of all the mydas, which simply goes by the scientific name of Gauromydas heros, measures up to 2.8 inches long with a wingspan of 3.9 inches, making it the largest fly on the entire planet.

Read more about flies here.

Largest Insects - Mydas Flies

The Gauromydas heros can mimic its own predators to avoid becoming lunch.


Summary of the Top 10 Largest Insects in the World

Let’s review the creepy-crawlies that top the list of the largest on Earth:

1Mydas Fly
2Tarantula Hawk (Spider Wasp)
3Tropidacris Grasshopper
4Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly
5Giant Weta (Flightless Cricket)
6Atlas Moth
7Goliath Beetle
8 Phryganistria chinensis Stick Insect
9Titan Beetle
10Hercules Beetle

The photo featured at the top of this post is © feathercollector/

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About the Author

I love good books and the occasional cartoon. I am also endlessly intrigued with the beauty of nature and find hummingbirds, puppies, and marine wildlife to be the most magical creatures of all.

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