Gadzooks! The world's largest aquatic insect has reportedly been found in China. This cute/terrifying little creature, which is definitely worth writing home about, was found in the the mountains of Chengdu in Sichuan province, Scientific American reports. It boasts a wingspan of 8.3 inches. That breaks the previous record held by a species of South American helicopter damselfly, with a wingspan of 7.5 inches. (Helicopter damselflies, by the by, feed on spiders, one species of which makes fake spiders in its web, likely to scare the predators away.)
There seems to be some confusion about exactly what this new insect is. Scientific American reports that they have only been identified as being the order Megaloptera, which includes alderflies and Dobsonflies, while CNN quotes a local museum as saying they are giant Dobsonflies (note: these are not mutually exclusive).
The adult insects lay their eggs in water, and larvae grow up in and around sediment at the bottom, and then as adults emerge from the depths to become, basically, flying jaws.
They are the largest aquatic insect, but what about the largest insect overall? It depends whether you're after weight or length but here are the contenders, as SciAm noted:
On the hefty side, we’ve got the Little Barrier Island giant weta (Deinacrida heteracantha) – one very famous specimen of which weighed 71 grams [0.2 lb]... Found in a remote region of New Zealand by biologist Mark Moffett, the weta was given a carrot to munch on while her photo was taken... On the more lanky side is the aptly named megastick – Chan’s megastick (Phobaeticus chani). The body of a female Chan’s megastick measures 35.7 cm (14 inches), which is a world record for insect body length. Oh and its legs? They’re 56.7 cm (22 inches) long.