Friday 24 May
Stag beetle (Lucanus cervus)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Stag beetle fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Stag beetle description
The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is arguably the most spectacular looking beetle in Britain; the male looks like something from a prehistoric age. The giant antler-like mandibles are used in courtship displays, and wrestling with other males. Although rather fearsome in appearance, the mandibles cannot be closed with any force. You are more likely to be nipped sharply by the female stag beetle, a smaller insect than the male that lacks the huge jaws. The stag beetle, superficially, appears black all over but, in certain lights, it can be seen to have dark maroon or brown wing cases. The impressive mandibles also have a reddish sheen to them. The wing cases are glossy; the head and thorax are a dull black.
- Male body length: 25-75 mm
- Female body length: 30-45 mm
Stag beetle biology
Despite it being such a large and spectacular insect, surprisingly little is known about the habits of the stag beetle. In 1998 the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) invited the public to look for the beetles, asking questions about where they were finding them, the type of wood it was found near, was it eating and so-on. The 'Stag Hunt' revealed that the beetles lay their eggs both in rotting log piles and in the roots of an assortment of rotten trees, including oak, apple, ash and cherry. They seem to have a preference for oak, especially those growing along riverbanks. They also prefer warm places on sandy or light soils, and are now mostly reported from urban and suburban gardens. In fact, seventy percent of the beetles reported were found in gardens.
The larvae of the stag beetle live within their rotting logs for up to four years before pupating and emerging as adults at the beginning of the flight season the following year. However, the adults have a much shorter life than the larvae, and only survive for a few months. It used to be thought that adult stag beetles died at the end of the year but, as a result of the survey, it seems some beetles can survive the winter. The main message from the survey was, sadly, that the beetle seems to have declined in numbers greatly, especially in some areas.Top
Stag beetle range
The stag beetle is nothing like as common as it used to be, but is still widespread in southern England, especially the Thames valley, north Essex, south Hampshire and West Sussex. It also occurs fairly frequently in the Severn valley and coastal areas of the south-west. Elsewhere in Britain it is extremely rare or even extinct. This beetle is found throughout Europe, and East Asia as far as Japan, although it is rare or declining in some countries.Top
Stag beetle habitat
Stag beetles are found in gardens, wooded parks and pasture woodland; anywhere where there is a good supply of dead wood.Top
Stag beetle status
Ths stag beetle is listed under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive and Appendix III of the Bern Convention. Protected in the UK under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended.Top
Stag beetle threats
As the beetle grubs take so long to develop, they become extremely vulnerable to tree clearance and the 'tidying up' of wood in parks and especially gardens; the over-zealous tidying of dead timber and stumps is thought to be the chief reason why this spectacular beetle seems to be in decline; although facts about its true status are still unclear. Elsewhere, there may also be a threat caused by the collection of the beetles for sale; to date no evidence of such a trade has been found in the UK. There are a number of websites that offer specimens for sale in the US for about $10 per animal. Whether they are collected from the wild or bred for the purpose is not clear, but if it does occur this practice is probably limited to European countries.Top
Stag beetle conservation
The stag beetle is listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP), and is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. The People's Trust for Endangered Species is leading a number of programmes to raise the profile of this insect, and have now organised two national surveys to find out more about stag beetle distribution and behaviour and encourage the public to become more sympathetic towards them; the huge response to the first PTES survey suggests that the beetles now have an enthusiastic fan club who may lobby local authorities and owners of large gardens to 'spare that rotten tree!'
With regard to the fear that trade in the insects might present a threat, the PTES lobbied the government's advisors and, since April 1998, the stag beetle has been protected under Schedule 5, Section 9.5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which means that all trade in the species is illegal and those suspected of trading in the species can be prosecuted.Top
Find out more
For more on the People's Trust for Endangered Species:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- The pair of mouthparts most commonly used for seizing and cutting food, common to the centipedes, millipedes and insects.
- The process of forming a pupa, the stage in an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
- Part of the body located near the head in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.