World's largest aquatic insect discovered in China's Sichuan province

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 2:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 6:15pm

With its intimidating, pincer-like mandibles, thick black body and wingspan that could cover a man's face, this is one creepy-crawlie you wouldn't want to see buzzing around your bedroom.

Scientists in China have discovered what is officially the world’s largest aquatic insect, in a mountain village in Sichuan province.

The bug – which looks like an eerie combination of a cockroach, dung beetle and dragonfly – has a wingspan of 21cm, said Zhao Li, director of the Insect Museum of West China.

The previous record holder, the spider-eating Giant Helicopter Damselfly, found in South America, has a wingspan of up to 19cm. Both insects lay their eggs in water.

Named the Giant Tusked Dobsonfly in Chinese, the insect spends half a year underwater in ponds or small pools while growing to full size.

It then leaves the water in mid-July to live a short life of around two weeks, flying in search of a mate.

Despite its terrifying appearance the creature is believed to be harmless, with its mandibles there to attract a mate.

Villagers living near Mount Qingcheng, northeast of the provincial capital Chengdu, showed the insect to Zhao and his team on July 16 during a research tour of the area.

The team has since returned to the area to complete their research and announced the discovery this week.

Zhao said the creature’s habitat is encroached by rising pollution.

“This aquatic insect only reproduces in the highest quality water, far away from cities,” he said. “Its potential habitat is getting smaller and smaller.”

Sichuan province is an area with a record variety of insects, Zhao said. He said there are 714 varieties of butterfly in the western province, more than in all of continental Europe.

Despite its size, the Dobsonfly doesn't quite make the grade as the world's biggest insect.

The Thysania Agrippina, also known as the White Witch, lives in South and Central America and has a wingspan of around 30 centimetres.