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World of Insect Giants

Earth Invaded by Giant Insects!

The most successful and plentiful life form on earth is without a doubt - insects. There are over 1 million known species of insects that have been identified, with some scientists estimating that as many as 10 million species may exist. That's species (types) of insects, each species has uncounted numbers of actual specimens alive at any given time. It seems there are as many insects on this planet as there are stars in the universe. And it seems that nature has a fondness for a certain kind of insect - beetles. Beetles account for the vast majority of insects species. In fact, one out of every four animals is a beetle!

Goliath BeetleThey come in an astonishing variety of sizes, colors, and shapes. The world record holder for the heaviest insect is a beetle - the Goliath beetle (pictured at right). The Goliath beetle can grow up to 4.5 inches (11cm) long. You can really get a sense of how large this beetle is by looking closely at the picture - this Goliath is crawling on a grown man's forearm. It's natural to be creeped out by such a big bug, but Goliath beetles are harmless to humans. Goliath beetles belong to the scarab family. They are scavengers eating rotting vegetable matter that falls on the jungle floors where they make their homes, or even eating and collecting animal dung (feces). They are Mother Nature's janitors, processing the waste materials of plants and animals. They're really quite efficient, thriving on what few creatures would consider a food supply. There are several other species of beetle that rival the monster size of the great Goliath beetles. Coming a close second is the Acteon Beetle (pictured, below is Megasoma acteon, a type of rhinoceros beetle (note the horns) that lives in the tropical jungles of the Amazon region). It uses those horns to "joust"

Acteon (rhinoceros) beetleThe Dinosaur Insect

On the island of New Zealand, there is a grasshopper-like species of insect that is found nowhere else on earth. New Zealanders have dubbed it the weta, which is a native Maori "god of bad looks". It's easy to see why anyone would call this insect a bad-looking bug. Most People are repulsed at the sight of these bulky, slow-moving creatures. Most people don't feel sympathy for these endangered creatures, but they do need protecting. Europeans who came to Australia and New Zealand brought rats and cats with them.The slow and ungainly wetas have been around on the island since the dinosaurs roamed and have evolved and survived in an ecosystem that had no predators for the weta. Until the rats came to the island. The rat population on the island has burgeoned into a real problem for many of the native species who are unaccustomed to its presence, and has put a serious dent in the native weta population. Quite simply, rats love to hunt and eat wetas.

The photo below is of a rare tusked weta, that grows up to two inches (5cm) long. The Giant Weta can grow to over three inches (8 cm) long Wetaand weigh as much as 1.5 ounces (40 grams). Giant wetas can hop up to 2 feet (60cm) at a time. They are nocturnal creatures, venturing out of the safety of their holes and caves only after dark. Some Giant wetas live in trees, and others live in caves. Giant wetas are very long-lived for insects, the adults can live for over a year. Just like their cousins, grasshoppers and crickets, weta are able to "sing" (formally called stridulation) by rubbing their leg parts together, or against their abdomens.

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