Have you ever wondered how long insects live, or what the longest-living type of insect is? From tiny ants to large beetles, insects are a diverse group of animals that come in all shapes and sizes. While many species have short lifespans, some can live for several years—even decades!
12 Longest Living Insects
In the below list, we’ll take a look at 12 of the world’s longest-living insects and explore some of the fascinating adaptations that help them stay alive for so long.
12. Praying mantis
Praying mantises have an average lifespan of 4-6 months but have been recorded living a little over a year in captivity. These remarkable creatures are often characterized by their iconic “praying” posture – which is why they were given their name – as well as their long, slender bodies and large eyes.
Praying mantises can be found all over the world in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. They are an interesting species that have adapted to many different environments and climates.
Grasshoppers are fairly long-lived insects, with a maximum lifespan of 12 months. Most grasshoppers live for about 12 months if they are not preyed upon and if environmental conditions are favorable.
Grasshoppers are also highly adaptable insects that can thrive in a variety of habitats, from meadows and fields to deserts and even urban gardens. Grasshoppers are generally diurnal, or active during the day.
10. Brimstone butterflies
Brimstone butterflies have an average lifespan of about 12 months with documented cases of brimstone butterflies living up to 14 months, making them the longest-living butterfly species. These elegant orange-yellow butterflies can be found throughout the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, where they lay eggs on wild plants like buckthorn and alder buckthorn.
The larvae then feed on these plants for several weeks before pupating and emerging as adult butterflies. Besides their long lifespan, Brimstone butterflies are also remarkable in the fact that they are able to hibernate during cold winters and can even survive temperatures down to -14°C. This is made possible by a thick coating of wax on the butterfly’s wings that helps keep it warm during hibernation.
Crickets actually tend to have very short lifespans, typically living up to 3 months. However, they have been observed living up to 2 years in a suitable environment without any predation.
They thrive in temperate climates and can be found all over the world. Crickets feed on plant material and other small insects, making them beneficial members of most ecosystems. Their chirping is also an iconic sound of summertime.
8. Stick insects
Stick insects, also known as walking sticks or stick bugs, have an average lifespan of 5-6 months but have been recorded to live for up to 3 years. These long-living creatures grow up to 12 inches in length. While their exact diet varies from species to species, many stick insects feed on bramble, honeysuckle, and other varied vegetation found in their natural environment.
They are well camouflaged and can blend into the foliage with ease due to the shape of their slender, stick-like bodies. They are also incredibly light and have been known to sway in the wind like branches.
Dragonflies are another long-living insect, with some species living up to five years as nymphs. However, their adult lives last on average from 1 week to 6 months, with the longest recorded adult dragonfly lifespan at 6 months. While they don’t have the same spectacular “boom and bust” lifecycle as periodical cicadas, dragonflies are important predators in aquatic systems around the world.
Throughout their life, dragonflies can be found near bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, and rivers. Adults are highly-specialized hunters, with some species able to catch up to 90% of the insects they target. Nymphs also feed on aquatic creatures such as mosquito larvae, helping to keep ecosystems in balance by controlling insect populations.
6. Stag beetles
The stag beetle has an average lifespan of 3-5 years, though they have been recorded to live up to 6 years. They live so long because they spend most of their years in the larval stage. These impressive creatures are found around the world and have been known to reach lengths of up to seven centimeters long.
Stag beetles primarily feed on dead wood and decaying plant matter. They help to break down this material and recycle it back into the environment. Stag beetles are also important pollinators, helping to spread pollen from flowering plants.
5. Periodical cicadas
Periodical cicadas are some of the longest-living insects in the world. These amazing creatures spend 13 or 17 years underground as nymphs before emerging as adults to mate, sing and lay eggs.
The maximum recorded lifespan of a cicada is 17 years, in part due to the cyclical and intentional lifespans of periodical cicadas. During the short two weeks above ground, periodical cicadas create a remarkable spectacle with their high-pitched mating songs that often drown out all other sounds.
4. Tarantula hawk wasps
Tarantula hawk wasps are another species of long-lived insect, with some individuals living up to 20 years. These wasps prey on spiders and have a unique life cycle in which the female uses her powerful stinger to paralyze a tarantula before dragging it back to her burrow. She then lays an egg on the tarantula, which hatches and the larva feeds on the spider before pupating and emerging as an adult.
Tarantula hawks are often brightly colored with specific patterns that vary from species to species, making them easily recognizable in the wild. The longest recorded lifespan of a tarantula hawk wasp is 25 years in a female- the females have, on average, much longer lifespans than males. The average lifespan of a male tarantula hawk wasp is 8-10 years.
3. Queen ants
Queen ants are some of the longest-living insects in the world. They have survived for a maximum of 28 years, and have an average lifespan of 10-20 years.
Queens play a very important role in ant colonies; they are the only reproductive members and provide all the eggs needed to sustain their colony. The queens also provide critical structure and organization for their colonies.
2. Queen termites
Queen termites are among the longest-living insects, with some queens recorded to have lived up to 50 years at maximum, with the average lifespan ranging from 25-50 years. These resilient and long-lived insects are incredibly important in their ecosystems as they maintain soil aeration, reduce levels of dead organic matter, and recycle essential nutrients for plants.
They also produce new colonies when needed, allowing them to survive for years on end. Queen termites have evolved a unique reproductive system to increase their longevity. They are capable of producing thousands of eggs each day – as much as 10,000 per week – which allows them to replenish any losses they may suffer throughout the course of their lifespan.
1. Splendor beetles
The Splendor beetle (Chrysina gloriosa) is one of the longest-living insects in the world, boasting an impressive lifespan that averages 31 years, with the longest recorded lifespan reaching 51 years. This meter-sized beetle is native to Mexico and Central America, where it inhabits dry and arid environments.
It lives so long because of delayed emergence, which means that it spends much of its time as a larva before emerging into an adult. This strategy is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation to the environment, allowing them to survive in periods of extended drought or other extreme conditions. That delayed emergence is only observed in certain conditions has substantiated this theory.