Some Extreme Insect Species

Largest insect
Little Barrier Island giant weta

The giant weta native to the Little Barrier Island of New Zealand (Deinacrida heteracantha) proudly bears the name of the heaviest and largest adult insect in the world, the record weight for one being of 71 grammes or 2.5 oz and more than 8.5 centimeters or 3.4 inches in length. A relative of the grasshopper and of the common house cricket, the giant weta is nowadays a vulnerable species.

Longest insect migration
Globe skimmer

The Globe Skimmer (Pantala flavescens) has recently been found to be the insect with the longest migration of all insects, its journey dwarfing that of the famous monarch butterfly. Using the monsoon, these dragonflies travel from India to East and Southern Africa and back again, which adds up to between 14,000 and 18,000 kilometers. Furthermore, the long migration of these insects renders them as an accessible food source for migratory birds, which means that if anything happens to this species, many species of birds would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to perform their annual migrations.

Fastest flying insect
Southern Giant Darner

This species of dragonfly (Austrophlebia costalis) has been clocked to a speed of 35 mph, which makes it the fastest insect in the world in terms of flight speed. Although there are previous claims that it would top 60 mph, most experts disagree on their veracity. Nevertheless, there are many who consider that the title of fastest insect remains disputed among dragonflies, hawk moths, and horseflies, with various unverified measurements circulating about each one of these species.

Most feared insect
Migratory locust

Locusta migratoria, or the migratory locust, is arguably the most feared species of insect known by humankind. Although the mosquito is responsible for the most human deaths, the locust is the one insect that has made men cry in horror throughout history. Although locust swarms are rare nowadays, locust plagues still occur in some parts of the world, as was the case in Madagascar, last year, or the 2004 locust outbreak that affected several countries in West and North Africa that resulted in losses of around $2.5 billion in terms of agricultural devastation.

Most resilient insect
German cockroach

I suppose few people will be surprised by the title of this entry. I mean, everyone knows the allegations that cockroaches are capable of survival nuclear fallout and so on… Therefore, in hopes of raising at least a few eyebrows, I would like to mention a case in which a German cockroach nymph (Blattaria germanica) managed to live inside another very hostile environment: a human colon. The nymph probably arrived there after having been inadvertently swallowed by the 52-year woman while she was eating, and somehow managed to survive the digestive enzymes of her stomach.

Rarest insect
Lord Howe Island stick insect

This rather large member of the stick insect family lives on the Lord Howe Island found between Australia and New Zealand. It is also an example of what biologists refer to as the Lazarus effect, namely when a species is thought to be extinct, but it is found again afterwards. The current population of wild Dryococelus australis is thought to consist out of less than fifty individuals (24 at the moment of their rediscovery); with so small a population, however, the species remains critically endangered. Nevertheless, there are efforts to breed the Lord Howe Island stick insect, the Melbourne Zoo of Australia managing to breed over nine thousand individuals within their specially designated breeding program.

Loudest insect
Water boatman

A species of cicada, the water boatman (Micronecta scholtzi) is the loudest animal on Earth for its size. Although the entire cicada family is famous for their loudness (with some species managing to sing in almost 120db), the water boatman, at only two millimeters in length manages to make a noise 99.2 db loud, is similar to standing in the front row of a loud orchestra or listening to a jackhammer from fifty feet away.