What are the Biggest Bugs in America?

By Shantitara - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79999139

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From early childhood, we are trembling when we see giant beetles. Even though a human is bigger and stronger than these pests, their appearance often paralyzes our consciousness. Do you want to learn more about the enormous insects, such as Elephant Beetles and Giant Water Bugs?

Leading entomologists from around the world undertake various expeditions, the purpose of which is to identify the biggest beetles. It turns out that several factors affect the size of such insects. Experts have found that the two most significant among them. It is the nutrition of the larva and the amount of oxygen in the air. What are the results of these studies?

What are the biggest bugs in America?

1) Giant Water Bugs (lat. Belostomatidae)

We all heard about Hemiptera or true bugs and that some of them smell terrible, while others feed on human blood, such as a bed bug. And what do you say when you know that these bugs can be up to 6 inches in length? They will not get into your bed, but they can bite while swimming in a lake. We are talking about Giant Water Bugs.

By Ryan Hodnett - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42921387

Where can you find giant water bugs?

These giants live in tropical countries, for example, in the countries of South America, East Asia (India), Southeast Asia (Thailand), as well as in North America (for example, the state of Florida). Locals call them Alligator Fleas. As a rule, you can encounter them in freshwater lakes and rivers.

Giant water bugs can reach a length of 6 inches:

They belong to the family of Belostomatidae. It differs from other species in that their hind legs are designed for swimming and not for walking. The front legs are strong and slightly smaller than the others. There are hooks resembling claws at their ends. They serve as an excellent tool for catching and holding prey.

Adults cannot breathe underwater, so they often rise to the surface to take a breath of air. Respiratory organs are two breathing tubes located on the abdomen. But they are almost entirely hidden.

How do giant water bugs eat?

Giant water bugs are real predators. Their main prey is tadpoles, insects, salamanders, amphibians, snails, and even small fish. They are waiting for their victim, being stationary and fixed on a stone or aquatic plant. When prey swims very close, bugs grab it with their front paws and pull it to the mouth opening.

By Dave Huth from Allegany County, NY, USA - Giant Water Bug 4, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64866169

Do giant water bugs fly?

These bugs can fly, but they do not do so often – only when they move to a new lake or when they are attracted to the light of night lamps. Because of this, they got another name – electric-light bugs. These bugs most often bite swimming people by the feet or toes. The bite will not be harmful, but it will be quite painful.

2) Elephant Beetle

Megasoma Elephas is one of the hugest insects on the planet. The length of its body can be more than five inches. Adult beetles can hardly fit in the palm of your hand, but they live only a few months.

By Photo by and (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) - Self-photographed, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2324335

Where do elephant beetles live?

Elephant beetles live in the South of Northern America, Central America, the Amazonian forests, and Australia. Before turning into a giant insect, the elephant beetle larva spends 2 to 3 years underground, eating plant debris. The larva becomes a bug at the last stage of development. This stage lasts about five weeks, after which the beetle dies.

What do elephant beetles eat?

In the wild, these bugs feed on tree sap. In captivity, they enjoy eating tropical fruits – lychee, longan, pineapple, etc. Megasoma Elephas are mostly active at night. If the air temperature drops, they can maintain their body temperature at the right level, almost like warm-blooded animals.

By Geoff Gallice from Gainesville, FL, USA - Elephant beetle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22440310

Are elephant beetles dangerous?

In the second half of the 20th century, elephant beetles attracted the attention of the Pentagon. Scientists from the military laboratories of DARPA tried to implant electrodes in the Megasome pupae to control the flight of adult beetles. Each beetle carried on its back three implanted electrodes, a tiny battery, and a microcontroller. According to military researchers, remote-controlled bugs can be promising weapons.

If this article is interesting you so far, you may also want to check out The 5 Creepiest Bugs!

3) Hercules beetle (lat. Dynastes Hercules)

Physical Description of Hercules beetle

The Hercules beetle is another representative of the giant beetles on Earth. It got its unusual name thanks to the famous ancient Greek hero Hercules (from Latin Herculēs), who became well-known for his unbelievable strength. And we can say the same about the Hercules beetle. They are weightlifters and can carry weights 850 times their weight. The length of its body can be 6-7 inches. Females are slightly smaller than males and can reach a length of no more than 3 inches. And they have no horns. The wingspan of males reaches 9 inches.

By Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16140900
Dynastes hercules ecuatorianus MHNT

The beetle has hard elytra. Its color depends on the humidity of the environment – they can be dark olive, yellow, yellow-olive color, and even black.

On the head of Hercules, there are two horns, one large on top and the second, smaller, lower. And the upper horn has several teeth.

You may not want a Hercules Beetle as a pet, but maybe you’d consider having a smaller, cuter beetle such as a ladybug? If so, you’ll want to read Can You Keep Ladybugs as Pets? first!

Habitat of Hercules beetle

The homeland of these beetles is the tropical forests of Central and South America. You will also meet them in the islands of the Caribbean. They feed on overripe fruits.

By Novita Estiti from Tokyo, Japan - Turning into a beetle: May 30, 2011, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25402361

They spend most of the time on the ground. Although, thanks to the sharp claws on their long legs, they climb trees perfectly. Hercules beetle larvae are also very interesting. At the end of its development, it can reach a length of up to 7 inches and weigh up to 3.5 oz. Rotting wood is the cradle for the larvae and, at the same time, the dining room. Hercules beetles do not live long – only six months.

Relatives of Hercules beetle:

There is another giant representative of this family in Northern America. People call it the eastern Hercules beetle, or Dynastes Tityus. It is smaller than its cousin, only 2.5 inches long. However, entomologists consider Tityus the biggest and the most massive insect in the United States. You can meet it in many states, such as Florida, Texas, Indiana, or Illinois.

Which states have the biggest bugs?

Giant beetles have quite a lot of requirements. Most of them need a warm climate and high humidity. That is why they choose tropical regions of our planet. The areas where these giants live are equatorial Africa, Northern Australia, Southeastern Asia (India, Vietnam, Indonesia), Amazon Rainforests, and Northern America tropics.

They cannot grow to such a colossal size in the cold regions. The reason for that is the lack of food. They mainly feed on rotting wood, and tropical forests are full of this. That is why if you want to see the real giants, you should travel to equator countries. But it does not mean that the is no possibility to find them in the United States.

As we told you above, you can meet these beetles in the south of the country. To increase your chances, you should go to Texas or Florida, as these states have the climate suitable for giant bugs. If you are lucky, you can meet one of these three titans there. But if not, you will probably find the eastern Hercules beetle, the smaller version of the true one. However, you will still be excited about its size.

Are the giant bugs endangered?

Unfortunately, people do not care about nature and its inhabitants. Industry uses more and more territory for its uses. We are cutting tropical rainforest, changing the environment. And it causes unpredictable changes. We have seen terrible Amazon rainforest wildfires this year. It destroyed millions of acres of untouched nature. But this area was a place where all unique animals live. And giant bugs suffered from it too.

Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth

It is not the type of moth you can meet at your backyard. A wingspan of this insect is about five inches, so it looks like a flying dinosaur. You can meet these moths in Hawaii; there is their natural environment.

Entomologists considered this species extinct. But they found a new population in 1984. And since that time, Blackburn’s Sphinx Moths suffered from habitat loss. Maybe we are the last generation that has an opportunity to meet these giants.

By Charles J Sharp - Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography.co.uk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80249430

Polposipus Herculeanus

It is another titan that can extinct soon. Polposipus is the giant flightless darkling beetle that lives in Seychelles. Its natural environment is dead trees, and we decrease its population with our activities.

By Kennyannydenny - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16171953


Now you discovered more about these fabulous and unusual creatures. Perhaps, you did not even know about these animals. Each of them will excite you with its enormous size. And if you want to see them in their natural habitat, you do not even need to go to the tropical rainforest. You can meet giant bugs in the south of the United States, for example, in Florida or Texas.

Most probably, you will not meet Hercules beetle there, but you have a chance to see its US cousin. The eastern Hercules beetle is the biggest and most massive bug in the United States. But we should not forget that many species of giant bugs can extinct soon. And we should change the way we treat nature if we want to save these unique animals.

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out our articles on 15 Unusual Facts About Cockroaches That Will Keep You Up at Night and Can You See Cockroach Eggs? The Simple Answer

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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