European Stag Beetle
Latin name: Lucanus cervus
Notable feature: Male Stag Beetles have large mandibles which look like the antlers of a Stag.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened
Where in the UK: Throughout Western Europe including Britain but not Ireland. Stag Beetles are relatively widespread in southern England. They are also found in the Severn Valley, Wales and coastal areas of the south west. Female Stag Beetles prefer light soils which are easier to dig down into and lay their eggs.
Male Stag Beetle © Eve Draper
The European Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) is one of the biggest beetles in Europe! It has a shiny black head and thorax (middle section), and chestnut-brown wing cases. Males have large antler-like jaws, female jaws are much smaller.
Larvae have an orange head and legs and brown jaws; they are quite chunky, and the content of their stomach can sometimes be seen through the skin in the lower half, giving the appearance of a blackish patch along the back. This is particularly visible in smaller larvae, which have less fat.
The European Stag Beetle requires a specific habitat, mainly due to the ecology of the larvae, which feed on rotten wood below ground.
- Size: Male Stag Beetles are usually about 4-8cm long. Females are smaller, usually 3-5cm long. A fully-grown Stag Beetle larva can be up to 11cm long.
- Life span: Larvae take several years to develop into an adult. Once they emerge, adult beetles only live for a few weeks to a few months.
- Diet: Stag Beetle larvae eat rotting wood. Adults can’t really eat solid food, but they can take moisture from rotting fruit and sap using their feathery tongue.
- Reproduction: Male Stag Beetles wrestle and fight over females using their large antler-like jaws. Although they can fly, female beetles are most often seen walking around on the ground. Once they have mated, the females return to the spot where they emerged and if there is enough rotting wood to feed their young, dig down into the soil to lay their eggs next to the rotting wood. Males tend to be seen flying around at dusk searching for a mate.
- When to see: From the end of May until about the end of July is the peak of activity. Sometimes seen into August but they will all die at the end of summer and won’t overwinter.
- Population Trend: Unknown. Range appears stable in the UK. Across their range they are declining and have gone extinct in Latvia and Denmark (although there has been a recent reintroduction into one area in Denmark).
- Threats: Loss of habitat, in particular loss of woodland edges, hedgerows, traditional orchards, parks and gardens; destruction, degradation and fragmentation of habitat through human activity, i.e. lack of dead wood caused by tidy gardens and changing forestry practices.
- Fun Fact: Once fully grown, the larvae leave the rotting wood they have been feeding on to build a large cocoon in the soil where they pupate and finally metamorphose into an adult. This cocoon is about the size of an orange!
How you can help:
Leave your garden or wild space a little untidy; why not build a log pile? If you don’t encourage a Stag Beetle to set up home, you’ll definitely make a lot of other buggy friends.
Join a recording scheme and log your finds – send any records/sightings to the Great Stag Hunt or if you want to take part in regular surveys sign up via the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network and get recording!
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