Have you ever searched your house for a cricket chirping all night? Have you ever waited for hours to swat a buzzing mosquito? That’s nothing compared to the story of Zhao Li, who searched for six years for a rumored giant stick insect and was rewarded with the discovery of a new species that set a new world record for length.
Zhao Li is with the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC) in Chengdu. He first heard about a legendary giant stick insect in 1998 in Guangxi where locals described it as being a half-meter long and as thick as a man’s index finger. Li remembered the story in 2008 and began his Quixotic quest to find the walking windmill.
Li searched for the beast for six years until one fateful day …
I was collecting insects on a 1,200-metre-tall mountain in Guangxi’s Liuzhou city on the night of August 16, 2014, when a dark shadow appeared in the distance, which looked like a tree twig. As I went near, I was shocked to find the huge insect’s legs were as long as its body.
With no Sancho by his side, Li caught the insect alone and returned to the Insect Museum, where initial measurements set its length at 62.4 cm (24.5 inches), an unverified world record. Even more exciting, the insect appeared to be a new species of walking stick. And to make it a perfect day for Zhao Quixote, he found out that his long bug was actually a Dulcinea when it laid six eggs. One of the hatchlings unfurled to a whopping 26 cm (10.2 inches).
It has taken until now for the insect’s world record length and new species status to be confirmed. The Insect Museum of West China say the walking stick beats the previous record holder, a Malaysian stick insect measuring 56.7 cm (22.3 inches), along with the world’s 3,000-plus other known stick insects. In his honor, the new species has been named Phryganistria chinensis Zhao.
Whether it’s bugs or UFOs or Bigfoot or mysterious giant planets or your perfect mate, never give up your quest.