Humans have always been infatuated with super-sized, larger than life phenomena, such as dinosaurs, Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, the world’s largest whatever and giants in general. While dinosaurs no longer roam the earth and Hollywood’s skyscraper-sized monsters remain the fantasies of the big screen, gigantism in the insect world is a fact of life in some parts of the globe.
Scientists think that giant wetas evolved to take the place of rodents on some continents. In fact, when mice were introduced to New Zealand, the giant weta population took a significant hit. Related to crickets, the largest giant wetas can weigh more than 2.5 ounces. Weighing more than a sparrow, giant wetas weigh in as some of the heftiest insects in the world. Thankfully, their weight makes them too heavy to fly. That, along with the fact that these large bugs measure about 4 inches long, not including their legs and antennae. They get their name from the Maori word “wetapunga,” that translates into “God of Ugly Things.”
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches
Another example of island gigantism, Madagascar hissing cockroaches hail from the large island of the same name off the African mainland. Woodland creatures, these dark reddish brown to black cockroaches grow up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide and hiss as a defense mechanism when touched. Excellent climbers, these hissing bugs can even scale glass.
In Florida, as in some other states, a permit is required to keep Madagascar hissing cockroaches. In a recent trend, lizard owners begin purchasing exotic insects like Madagascar hissing cockroaches and others to feed their pet lizards. Authorities warn that misplacing some of these exotic insects may provide invasive species the opportunity to multiply and throw Florida’s already complicated eco-system out of whack.
Giant Water Bugs
Most homeowners in South Florida and other southern states cringe at the mention of American cockroaches that go by many names, including palmetto bugs and water bugs. Although these large bugs can be quite disconcerting, especially when flying straight for your head, they’re no match for a species of beetles, known as toe-biters and alligator ticks. Inhabiting streams and ponds in many parts of the world, including the US, giant water bugs can reach 4 inches in length, right up there with some of the largest beetles on the planet. Voracious predators, giant water bugs can pack a punch with their large, powerful pinchers, hence their toe-biting reputation. According to Scientific American, giant water bugs surprise their prey, which can be fish, other small aquatic animals, and toes, evidently.
In Thailand, giant water bugs are considered delicious
Attracted by black light, giant water bugs are collected, harvested and served up as crunchy munchies in parts of Thailand. Take that, giant water bugs!
With their spectacular, bold black and white designed bodies with brown, leathery wings, goliath beetles live up to their names. Native to Africa and able to lift loads 850 times their weight, these large bugs are thought to be strong contenders for the world’s largest insect title. Goliath beetles can exceed 4 inches in length and weigh 3.5 ounces, as larvae. In Japan, beetles are thought of as good luck charms, so these super-sized beetles enjoy great popularity there.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing
The world’s largest butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwings sport wingspans of more than one foot wide. Named in honor of Britain’s King Edward VII’s Danish wife, Queen Alexandra birdwings were discovered in 1906 in the remote lowland rainforests of Papua, New Guinea. Reportedly, the first specimen ever found was “taken down by a shotgun.” Considered on the endangered list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, these larger than life butterflies are falling victim to palm oil plantations, as encroaching development squeezes them out of their natural habitat.
Adult females and males differ in wing shape, coloration, and size. The larger female has brown wings with white markings and a cream-colored body, while the smaller male has bright blue and green wings and a yellow body. Poisonous to natural predators, due to their diet of tropical pipevine plants, animals steer clear of Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, remembering their unpleasant encounters with these brightly-colored gentle giants.
The Malay Archipelago plays host to the world’s largest moths. Atlas moths’ wings can measure over 60 square inches in total area, with wingspans as long as one foot. That’s about as big as an iPad or seven times larger than a playing card. Primarily brown, with bold lines and colorful wing tips, several theories circulate about the origin of the Atlas moth’s name. Some hold that the geometric lines and shapes of these giant moths bring to mind a map, while others think that the name harks back to Greek mythology when Zeus condemned Atlas, the god of war to hold the sky upon his shoulders for eternity. The Chinese call the Atlas moth, “snake’s head” moths because their wingtips look like snakeheads, which may possibly be a defense mechanism.
Chinese gigantic stick insect
In 2017, a stick insect measuring 25 inches long was bred in captivity in China’s Guangxi Province. According to the UK’s DailyMail.com, entomologist, Zhao Li found the giant insect’s mother “at midnight in a forest” during a field inspection in Guangxi Province in 2014. After laying six eggs, voila, the largest stick insect to date was hatched. Stick insects of all sizes and varieties populate the earth, with most large stick insects found near the equator.
Known as walking sticks, tree lobsters and many other names, stick insects win the award for camouflage in the giant insect category. Think about it; it’s hard to hide when you’re one of the world’s largest bugs. But these guys excel at taking on the shape and color of tree branches, leaves, and other foliage, depending on their size and surroundings. Zhao noted that his giant stick insect has a sweet tooth, preferring strawberry jam, even giving up other food for this fruity treat.
To protect your home and loved ones from the pests, just call Hulett to schedule a free pest inspection.