Beetles, known scientifically as the order Coleoptera, are one of the most numerous life-forms on the planet today. Compared to all insects, beetles make up 40% of what is currently known to science, and they make up a quarter of all known life-forms on the planet. Some are pests, while others are hugely beneficial. Their diversity is astounding. They are found in every habitat except under the sea and in the polar regions. Let's look at the largest of this incredible order.
Image by Bernard Dupont
These giants of the insect world are native to the forests of Central and South America. They are members of the Scarab family of beetles. This means that they have stout bodies with distinctive club-like antennae. The elephant beetles are black, but they have specialised hairs on their back called setae that give them a yellowish colour. Now the most important question becomes, how large are they actually? Well, the males can grow to over 12 cm and can be twice the size of the female. Like others on this list, the males have horns, or actually, technically, they are protrusions of their exoskeletons. Horns are a specific type of ornamentation in bovids.
The larvae develop in large decaying logs and can take almost two and a half years to mature into the adult form. The adults survive for about 1–3 months and feed on the sap of trees as well as fallen fruit.
There are six species known as Goliath Beetles, and each one is large. Like the previous elephant beetle, the Goliath beetles are part of the scarab family. This means that you have a stout body and club-like antennae. Unlike the elephant beetle, the Goliath beetles are all found in the tropical forests of Africa. They are similar in size to the elephant beetles, at about 12 cm for the males and about half that for the females.
They have incredibly beautiful black and white patterns on their backs, which is also called their elytra. The elytra are specialised, hardened pairs of wings that cover and protect their other pairs of wings, as most insects have two pairs of wings.
Image by Didier Descouens
This aptly named beetle is not only one of the largest beetles, it is also one of the largest flying insects in the world. This beetle is another species of the scarab family. It is found in the forests of Central and South America. The males have a "horn" that protrudes from the thorax, and they have another that protrudes from the head, forming a pair of vertical pincers almost. With these protrusions, the hercules beetle is actually the longest-living species of beetle in the world. It can reach a length of 17 cm (7 in) with the protrusions.
Image by Bernard Dupont
The Titan beetle is the only beetle on this list that isn't a type of scarab beetle. Instead, the titan beetle is a type of longhorn beetle, which is a bit of a misnomer as the "horns" in the name actually refer to the antennae. The Titan beetle can reach lengths of 16.5 cm (7 in). However, unlike the Hercules beetle, which reaches this length when you include the horn, the titan beetle has no horns to extend its length. The titan beetle is truly a behemoth among insects.
Being this large, you would imagine that the Titan beetle has a significant bite, and you would be right. The Titan beetle has massive pincers with which it can snap a pencil with one bite.
Beetles are the largest group of insects currently known to science, and this list explores some of the largest species found. Some of these species are kept quite successfully as pets. Would you keep any of these? Which is your favourite?