Stag Beetle-ing about

Around May to August is when the Stag Beetles come out.

The UK’s largest species of beetle, they are rare to the point of being endangered with very few left in most parts of the UK. In other countries in Europe, they’ve become extinct in the wild.

You can’t miss a Stag Beetle. If you’ve not been lucky enough to see one, they’re about 3cm to 7.5cm long, have a beautiful shiny brown shell or carapace, and the males have dramatic horns or antlers.

Over the summer months, they can be found flying around at dusk. They’re not very fast but they do make a slight buzzing noise as they fly. Look out for them because seeing them fly is now, sadly, a rare and special experience!

Stag Beetles look ferocious, but are actually harmless – by Dumi By Dumi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Why do Stag Beetles fly?

Most beetles have wings hidden underneath their carapaces. In the case of Stag Beetles, they take to the air in order to find a mate.

The smaller females will usually stay on the ground, so the males are on the hunt to find a partner.

Where do Stag Beetles live?

For most of their lives, Stag Beetles live underground and they have an amazing – and very long – life cycle.

They spend most of their lives as a white larva or grub, deep in the soil under hedgerows or at the edges of woodland eating rotting wood in the ground. They can stay like this for between 3 and 7 years!

Finally, the larva will form a cocoon around itself and metamorphose into a beetle, before emerging from May to August to find a mate.

Once it’s found a mate, the female will look for the burrow she emerged from and lay her eggs in their if there’s enough rotting wood left for her young to feed on.

The beetles themselves have a very short life, and won’t survive the winter.

Stag Beetle life cycle – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why are they endangered?

While the Stag Beetle has plenty of natural predators including foxes and birds of prey, but the biggest threat to them comes from us – from human activity.

Firstly, there’s the fact that there are fewer woodlands, hedgerows, and places for them to live their long life underground safely.

Secondly, because woodlands and parks are kept tidier, there’s less of the rotting wood they need for food.

And thirdly, people can also accidentally walk on them, crush them, or they may be hit by vehicles.

Stag beetles are particularly vulnerable because they have such a long life cycle. If you reduce the population numbers, it takes a very long time for the population to grow again.

Can a Stag Beetle hurt me?

Stag Beetles can look fearsome with their shiny brown carapace, large pincer-like antlers, and the fact that they fly, but actually, they are harmless.

Those big antlers or horns are actually only on the male stag beetles, and are used in courtship displays or to fight off other males. They are so big, they get in the way of the beetle eating! But they are also delicate and not very strong, so they won’t be able to hurt you in any way.

Female stag beetles have much much smaller antlers which aren’t at all as noticeable.

In fact, the main risk is giving you a fright if they fly past you or bump into you unexpectedly!

Male and female stag beetle – Didier Descouens [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

How you can help Stag Beetles

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species charity need YOU! They’re keen to find out where Stag Beetles have been found, so if you’ve spotted one, or are even lucky enough to have some in your garden, then let them know via the website – there’s a sighting form you can fill in.

They’ve also got lots of advice on what you can do to help them and some fascinating Stag Beetle facts. Did you know, for example, that they spend most of their lives underground?

Another great website is the Wildlife Trusts guide to Stag Beetles. As well as reporting beetle sightings, which can help conservationists work out where they live so those areas of land can be protected, it’s also important to make sure there’s plenty of good habitats where they could live. That’s something that the Wildlife Trusts work hard to achieve, mostly relying on volunteers – so if you’ve got some spare time, it’s a brilliant way to help wildlife in your local area!

You can also look to create wood piles – literally piles of rotting wood – in your garden, school grounds or local parks. They aren’t just great for Stag Beetles; all sorts of wildlife will begin to call them home!

 

Posted on June 5th, 2018 by Aoife Glass

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