The other week we dipped into the wonderful world of beetles, learning that they are the largest family of insects on the earth. As well as being the largest family, beetles also sport some rather sizeable specimens amongst their numbers and here are some of the biggest of them all:
Titan – the Titan beetle is the proud holder of the biggest (well longest) beetle in the world title, measuring up to a whopping 16.5 cm (6 ½ inches)! it’s easy to see why they’re top beetle. They are very strong too and have powerful jaws that can apparently penetrate flesh and snap wood! (eeek!) If that wasn’t scary enough, they also bristle with sharp spines and can make a hissing sound to put off anyone who might be foolish enough to bother them! Put all that together with their uncanny resemblance to a giant cockroach and you’d have to say that these guys are not what you’d class as cuddly!
Goliath –next up on our list of heavyweights is the Goliath beetle, which tips the scales at in impressive 60 grams (2.1 oz) and measures up to 12cm (4 ¾ inches).
These guys definitely like to stand out in a crowd, having interesting markings in bright colours that can look like pictures or even scribbles (my handwriting!!) The males have a Y shaped horn, which they use (as many beetles do) to battle for females. Goliaths are well named, because they are extremely strong, reputably being able to lift up to 850 times their own weight and they can be aggressive too (even as larva they have been known to be cannibalistic!) So probably best admired from a distance.
Elephant – the appropriately named Elephant beetle is a giant amongst insects – it can be as big as a human hand! And it’s not just their size, but their tusk like horns that earned them their name. These guys measure up to 13cm (5 inches) and are covered with fine hairs, which give them a yellowish brown tint. They feel the cold and like to stay toasty warm and are very good at maintaining a high body temperature. They do a sterling job of being one of nature’s recyclers too, feeding on decaying wood and plant matter. Glad they don’t like meat for dinner though!
Hercules – the Hercules beetle is part of the Rhinoceros beetle family and it’s easy to see why they’re so called when you catch sight of their astonishing horn (males only) which, as per their cousins, is used for fighting for their females. These critters can measure up to 16cm (6 inches) (including their horn) and are also accomplished weight lifters, but can’t quite compete with their Goliathan counterparts. They are night lovers, coming out after dark to feed on fruit (might give you a bit of a surprise on your evening stroll!)
Rhinoceros – keeping in the same family, the Rhinoceros beetle is another giant of the beetle world, with that very Rhino-like horn. They definitely deserve their place amongst the big boys, measuring up to 15cm (6 inches) and also being extremely strong for their size. Whilst they may look frightening, they’re can apparently make good pets and are a popular choice by children in Asia (think I might stick to hamsters myself!)
Stag – last, by not least, we come to the Stag beetle, which are widespread throughout the world (even some here in the UK). These guys earned their name due to their horns (again males only) resembling the antlers of a male deer (stag). Although you’d think they would use these to attack, they’re reserved for those mating set-tos and these guys are not as aggressive as they might look. The largest of their kind is the Giraffe Stag beetle, which can grow up to 12 cm (4 ¾ inches). In Germany it was believed that placing a stag beetle on top of your head would protect you from getting struck by lightning during a thunder storm (!!)
As these mammoth invertebrates prove – big is indeed beautiful!