Stag beetle facts!
Discover the secrets of Britain’s largest beetle…
These brain-boggling beetles might be famous for their fearsome jaws, but there’s much more to them than meets the eye! So come on gang, let’s find out some amazing stag beetle facts…
Stag beetle facts
Scientific name: Lucanus cervus
Family name: Lucanidae
Body length: 3.5-7.5cm
Diet: Decaying wood and tree sap.
Predators: Bats, birds, and insect-eating mammals.
Habitat: Woodland (especially oak woods), parks and gardens.
Range: Southern and central Europe. In Britain, they are found in south and south-eastern areas, including London parks!
What are stag beetles?
Stag beetles are the UK’s largest beetle, measuring up to 7.5cm long – that’s about the size of an adult’s thumb! These amazing insects are easy to identify, because of their red-brown bodies and massive, antler-like jaws…
But don’t worry! While their impressive pincers might look scary, stag beetles are usually very docile.
DID YOU KNOW?
Stag beetles have also been called billywitches, oak-ox, thunder-beetles, and horse-pinchers!
Like most beetles, stag beetles start life as larvae. For up to six years they look like white grubs, and make their homes in old trees and rotting wood. Hidden underground, the grubs grow big and strong by feeding on decaying (rotting) plant material. By the time they’re ready to transform into adult beetles, they can measure up to 11cm long – yikes!
Eventually, each stag beetle larva will create a cocoon for itself, that can be as large as an orange. In the cocoon, it undergoes metamorphosis and, in the same way that a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the larva becomes a stag beetle!
How long do stag beetles live for?
After surviving all those years as a grub, adult stag beetles live for just four months! They emerge from their larval cocoons in late May, and by the end of August, they die. During these busy summer months, the adult beetles only eat tree sap, and rely on all the nutrients they built up as larvae to help them survive.
This is the most important time in a stag beetle’s life, as it’s their chance to produce offspring! Adult males use their jaws to fight rivals and impress potential mates, while females dig deep under dead wood to lay up to 21 precious eggs.
WEIRD BUT TRUE!
In folklore, stag beetles are associated with thunder and lightning storms. In the past, British people believed these brilliant beetles could summon storms, while in Germany, stag beetles were associated with Thor, the God of Thunder – cool!
Can stag beetles fly?
Amazingly, yes they can! On warm summer evenings, adult males can be spotted flying through the balmy air in search of mates. The beetles fly upright with their wings out behind them. You can listen out for the unmistakable loud, droning, buzzing sound they make!
Are stag beetles rare?
In the UK, stag beetles are suffering from habitat loss. Their larvae need dead and decaying wood to survive, and sadly, people have often spent time tidying up woodland floors and removing this precious stag beetle habitat!
Stag beetles love log piles and old tree stumps, especially from native species like oak trees. So, if you have any of these habitats in your garden, avoid the temptation to tidy! Stag beetles, and loads of other mini-beasts, would much prefer that you left rotting wood alone.
Did you know that we have a FREE downloadable ‘Make a bug hotel’ primary resource? Great for teachers, homeschoolers and parents alike!
Where can you find stag beetles?
Stag beetles love dry areas that don’t get too much rain, and soft soil for digging. In the UK, you can find them in south and south east England.
Parks, gardens, hedgerows, orchards, and woodlands are all great habitats for stag beetles! They even make their home in the city of London, in places like Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common.
So, whether you’re in your garden, heading to a National Park, like the New Forest, or living the city life in London, keep an eye out for these astonishing insects!