World's New Longest Insect Is The Length Of Your Arm

Entomologist Zhao Li with a very, very, very long insect. Insect Museum of West China

Chinese state media announced this week that a museum has bred the world’s longest insect. 

Although a stick insect by name, this thing is practically a branch. The lanky female measures in at a length of 64 centimeters (25 inches).

This individual is the offspring of the former record holder, a 62.4-centimeter (24.5 inches) stick insect found three years ago during a field inspection in the southern province of Guangxi. It turned out, this individual was actually a previously unknown species, now known as Phryganistria chinensis. This species belongs to the Phasmatidae family, which includes a whole host of weird and wonderful stick insects including many of the largest and longest.

"I was collecting insects on a 1,200-meter [3,937 foot] tall mountain in Guangxi's Liuzhou City [when] a dark shadow appeared in the distance, which looked like a tree twig," the bug’s discoverer, Zhao Li, told Xinhua News Agency at the time. "As I went near, I was shocked to find the huge insect's legs were as long as its body."

Before this, the lengthiest insect was a 56.7 centimeter ( 22.3 inch) long stick insect, known as, Phobaeticus chani, discovered in 2008 and now on display at London's Natural History Museum. Just three specimens of this insect have been found so far, all from the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

This latest record-breaking insect was artificially bred at the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC), the largest insect museum in Asia, found near Dujiangyan city in Sichuan Province.

“The largest insect is now a specimen at the IMWC,” according to Xinhua News Agency. Presumably, this means it’s now dead and on display at the museum. However, it's fair to say this insect achieved a lot during its life.

There are over 3,000 known species of stick insect but very little is known about these super-sized stick bugs. Scientists aren’t even too sure where many of them live. No doubt, this is largely thanks to their exceptionally good camouflage.

Funnily enough, the "first known stick insect” was found fossilized in north-east China. Dating back from over 126 million years ago, this creature is one of the earliest examples of an insect mimicking a plant for the purpose of camouflage.

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