World's longest insect discovered in China

Updated: 2016-05-05 18:54


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CHENGDU -- A long silhouette found wriggling on a mountain road in south China has proved to be the world's longest insect, authorities said Thursday.

Zhao Li, with the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC) in Chengdu, found the 62.4-cm-long stick insect during a field inspection in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2014, breaking the record for length for all 807,625 insects discovered so far, according to the IMWC.

The previous record holder was a stick insect found in Malaysia in 2008. It measured 56.7 cm and is currently at the Natural History Museum in London.

Zhao Li said he had expected to find the insect since a field inspection in Guangxi in 1998, when locals told him about seeing a half-meter-long "huge insect" as thick as a man's index finger. Zhao assumed a giant stick insect might exist, but never managed to see one until two years ago.

"I was collecting insects on a 1,200-meter-tall mountain in Guangxi's Liuzhou City on the night of Aug. 16, 2014, when a dark shadow appeared in the distance, which looked like a tree twig," Zhao recalled. "As I went near, I was shocked to find the huge insect's legs were as long as its body."

Zhao took the insect back to the IMWC, and it laid six eggs. After hatching, Zhao found the smallest of the young insects' bodies measured at least 26 cm, almost twice the size of those at the Natural History Museum.

The insect has been named Phryganistria chinensis Zhao, and a thesis about it will be published soon.

Stick insects are good at disguising themselves as twigs or tree leaves, making them hard to notice. More than 3,000 kinds of stick insects have been discovered so far.