7 Interesting Facts About the Titan Beetle (the Largest Beetle in the World!)

Titan Beetle in the floor

Insects outnumber humans on Earth 200 million to one. And if all those insects were as big as the titan beetle, we humans would be in trouble. Luckily, most insects are small, averaging 0.1 to 0.78 inches (3 to 20 millimeters); although it hasn't always been that way.

In prehistoric times, insects grew to be as large as birds. In fact, many evolutionary biologists think that it was the evolution of birds that drove the giant insects of old to extinction. Fossils of insects resembling dragonflies have been found. The insects who died long ago had enormous wingspans, some as large as 2.5 feet (76.2 centimeters). They also had huge jaws and were probably vicious predators. Thankfully, these griffinflies, as they are called, went extinct a long time ago.

Today, insects don't grow anywhere near that size, but the specimen we'd like to introduce you to is the titan beetle – the largest beetle in the world!

What Is the Titan Beetle?

The titan beetle is a giant in the insect world. The titan beetle is a member of the Cerambycidae family, or longhorn beetles. Although it has been mistaken for a cockroach, it isn't a common insect like the cockroach. In fact, the titan beetle is the sole species in the genus Titanus and its Latin name is Titanus giganteus.

The largest recorded Titanus giganteus to date measured 6.5 inches (16.7 centimeters) long and was collected by entomologist Patrick Bleuzen in French Guyana. Titan beetles have strong mandibles that can snap wooden pencils in half and sharp claws on their legs to protect them from predators. And they hiss to warn off aggressors that are foolish enough to come too close.

Where Do Titan Beetles Live?

Titan beetles live in tropical rain forests in South America, so you are unlikely to see one dashing across your North American kitchen countertop. Despite their size and elusiveness, though, the titan beetle has a great many secrets. This beetle lives in some of the Amazon's hottest and most inaccessible tropical rain forests and only ventures out into the open when seeking a mate.

The larvae of this mysterious insect have never been found. Scientists believe the titan beetle grub feeds on decaying wood below ground until it reaches maturity. At that point, it bores out of the dead tree where it's been feeding. The large boreholes the grubs leave behind have led scientists to estimate that the titan beetle grubs are approximately two inches (5 centimeters) in diameter and up to a foot (30 centimeters) in length.

Interesting Facts About the Titan Beetle

Are Titan Beetles Dangerous?

How and What Do Titan Beetles Eat?

How Long Do Adult Titan Beetles Live?

How Do Titan Beetles Mate?

How Are Titan Beetles Caught?

Are Titan Beetles Endangered?

Are Titan Beetles Really the Biggest Insect in the World?

Conclusion

man holding a titan beetle in hand

Image via Flickr

The mysterious and mighty titan beetle is a giant in the insect world. The largest specimen collected was over 6 inches in length, although there are rumors of titan beetles growing to over 7 inches (18 centimeters). The titan beetle has a secret life as larvae, for to date none have ever been collected.

These mighty beetles have strong mandibles and sharp claws, but these are only used as a defense. The adult titan beetles are not predators; they are more focused on making love than waging war. In fact, adult titan beetles do not eat at all. In their adult form, titan beetles only live for a few weeks. They mate, create their offspring, and then die. They don't have time during that short lifespan to care for their offspring.

Titan beetle larvae feed off trees in the tropical rainforests where they live. Because their habitat is endangered, the beetles, too, are threatened by extinction. In an ironic turn of events, what may save the titan beetle is the tourism industry that has sprung about around the beetle's notoriety. Adventurers travel to the rainforests to see the titan beetles in their natural habitat and perhaps get the chance to capture and/or purchase a large titan beetle.

How to Help

Conservation efforts to save the tropical rainforests also benefit the inhabitants of those endangered habitats. You can help save the titan beetles, ensuring they don't become extinct like the griffinflies, by aiding conservation efforts.

Don't buy palm oil! Palm oil, found in almost half of all processed foods in the United States, is a key contributor to rainforest deforestation.

Choose environmentally friendly and responsibly sourced products. Avoid buying furniture made from threatened rainforest woods like mahogany, rosewood and ebony. Look for sustainable sources of wood when choosing hardwood flooring, and, if you can, support the human populations of these tropical areas by buying fair-trade goods. If people can make a living without having to cut down the rainforests, it will be better for our ecosystem, and for the titan beetle.

Featured image via Flicftitan beetlekr

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