There are two impressive species battling it out for the title of the world’s largest beetle, both measuring over 15cm in length.


The Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules) is named after the mythological figure Hercules who was famed for his great strength. It is part of the rhinoceros beetle subfamily, Dynastinae, which also includes the Atlas beetle (Chalcosoma atlas) and the common rhinoceros beetle (Xylotrupes ulysses).

The species is sexually dimorphic, with the female and the male looking different to each other. With regards to the title of largest beetle, it is only the male that can compete, thanks to his very long black horns. These horns are used in battle against other males in order to mate with females. The length of these horns combined with his body length means the male Hercules beetle can reach up to 19cm in length.

Despite its scary-looking horns, the Hercules beetle is harmless and mainly feeds on rotting fruit on the rainforest floor. The larvae of the species feed on dead wood.

Hercules beetles are found in South and Central America, between Bolivia and southern Mexico, and on some Caribbean islands.

The other contender for this title – if the title is focused on body length – is the titan beetle (Titanus giganteus), which can measure up to 16.7cm in body length.

A large black beetle.

The titan beetle is part of the longhorn beetle family, Cerambycidae, and is the only species in its genus (known as a monotypic genus). The bite of this beetle’s mandibles is incredibly strong, and it can snap pencils in half.

Titan beetles are also found in South America, including Brazil, the Guianas, Venezuala and Colombia. Adult titan beetles do not feed. The larva of this species have never been found, but are thought to feed on dead wood below ground.


Main image: A male Hercules beetle. © Robert Oelman/Getty


Megan ShersbyNaturalist, writer and content creator