Amazon Insects

Amazon Rainforest insects are exceptionally diverse and insects are often regarded as the most successful animals to have lived on Earth. There are more different insects than in any other class of animals. It is not surprising that the Amazon Rainforest, a place containing more diversity than anywhere else, contains a fantastic assemblage of colorful, strange and interesting insects.

Capable of powered flight, insects can navigate the often complicated habit of the Amazon Rainforest to find food, water, and mates. Some stages of an insect’s life cycle lack wings and these insects have adapted with the tools at their disposal to excel in this environment. The impressive Gigantiops destructor, a strange looking ant, has evolved powerful, large eyes to visually navigate its complicated jungle home. I will talk about a tiny fraction of Amazon Rainforest insects using key species to illustrate different groups.

Amazon Insects – Rainforest Ants

Bullet Ant
Photo by Emills1 on Flickr

Rainforest Ants are the most abundant insects in the Amazon Rainforest and will probably be the first insect you see after you enter the rainforest. There are many interesting types you can see like Gigantiops destructor mentioned in the Amazon ants article with its large eyes and excellent vision, or bullet ant picture above, an ant respected by many hardened jungle guides. This ant defines the most painful sting from an insect on the Schmidt pain index. In the Amazon, you can see the fearsome female warriors ready to tackle many different prey items, including Amazon Rainforest frogs, which are a favored prey choice. You can see the ant’s large & powerful rear section that houses this insect’s impressive sting. In the eastern Amazon, some tribes use these ants in initiation rituals as a right of passage for young men.

Amazon Rainforest Insects – Caterpillars

Some caterpillars in the Amazon look like a tasty gummy sweet someone has dropped on a rainforest walk, but are actually jeweled caterpillars of an Amazon Rainforest moth. Often when talking about Amazon Rainforest insects, it’s the butterfly adults that steal the show, but their caterpillars often demonstrate natural beauty. These jewel caterpillars have a goo-like coating that predators like rainforest ants have difficulty penetrating. The goo protects the larvae until they metamorphosise into winged moths that can fly from danger.

Longhorn Beetles

Longhorn beetles include very large insects and the largest species lives in the Amazon Rainforest, which has the dramatic name of Titan beetle. These insects can snap a pencil in half and no one has ever seen their mysterious larvae (larvae must be even larger than the intimidating adults). There are many other longhorns, however, which are by no means small. These robust beetles roam the forest floor or fly through the trees. Unlike the excellent flying ability of other Amazon insects like the dragon fly aviation experts, longhorns have their first set of wings modified into a protective casing. This tradeoff leaves the insects protected like a tank when roaming the forest floor, but means they are less skilled in the air and prone to aerial accidents.

Jumping Sticks

Jumping Stick
Photo by Julie Feinstein on Flickr

What do you think this is? Looking like a twig or stick insect, it’s actually a member of the Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets & locusts) but it looks almost identical to a stick insect in full shot. Insect spotters unfamiliar with these animals will not be fooled for long as their rear legs are thicker than the rest, a clue to this insect’s jumping ability. If it’s camouflage has not fooled potential predators, it hops away from danger.

Leaf Katydid

Insects protect themselves from danger in the variety of ways. Some are armed with intimidating weaponry & toxins, some fly from danger, some are covered in goo-like substances like the jeweled caterpillars already mentioned, and some use camouflage. Some insects disguise themselves as other dangerous insects, things in the rainforest of no interest to potential predators, or simply blend in with their surroundings. These leaf katydids blend in with dead leaves as they spend much of their time on plant shoots. As they tuck in to a delicious fresh leaf, predators simply see a dead leaf sprouting from the stem. Turning the tables of these apparently docile insects, some katydids are voracious hunters feeding off smaller insects.


There are many praying mantids in the Amazon Rainforest. You will see these on tree trunks quickly running behind the tree as you approach. Like the leaf katydids above, some are impressively camouflaged and difficult to spot. This leaf mantis has a flattened body to blend in with rainforest foliage. Mantids have impressive eyesight and a unique hunting mechanism. When prey approach, they extend their praying arms to snatch the unfortunate animal impaling the creature with spiny arms. They then feed while scanning their surroundings for potential predators. Interestingly, mantids are closely related to cockroaches and if you look hard the similarities become obvious.


Bullet Ant
Photo by Thomas Shahan on Flickr

Weevils are a very diverse family of beetles and there are 48,000 species worldwide. They have a cuddly, gonzo-like appearance (to some) and are often seen trudging along branches or up tree trunks. These insects generally use camouflage to evade predators but can also be brightly colored. Weevils often possess rough and spiny bodies adding to their camouflage. Weevils are known to be associated with almost every plant species and may be an important Amazon Rainforest insect for forest diversity.

What are your favorite Amazon Rainforest insects? Are there any you really want to avoid on an Amazon expedition?

Books on Wildlife

Here is a selection of good books and guides on wildlife to help you learn more about animals and plants in their natural environment.

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