Last Friday I was tidying up what I like to call my office – a.k.a the back bedroom – when I found, lurking in the wastepaper bin, a Stag Beetle giving me one of those “What are you staring at, pal?” looks. It was big – about the size of a large box of matches – and waving around a set of fearsome jaws. To be honest I was shocked, not just by its menacing appearance but also because I hadn’t seen such a beast, indoors or outdoors for years. How did it get into the house and what was it doing in my waste paper bin? Following B.U.R.P – the Beetle Universal Rehousing Programme – I gently removed it to a pile of dead logs at the bottom of the garden and forgot all about it until a few days later when…
…a friend of mine, having just returned from her allotment, told that she had pulled up a rotting tree stump and found about 30 huge Stag Beetle larvae hiding underneath guarded by two Stag Beetles, one dead and the other alive. Two Stag Beetle hits in a week was rather unusual I thought but then…
…I was in my garden when I overheard my neighbour talking to his wife about a Stag Beetle that was lurking underneath their barbecue. It was clearly prepared to take on all comers. “It was armoured like a tin of pilchards”, he said, “but with attitude!”
Now I was under the impression that Stag Beetles were threatened but suddenly, here in sunny St Margarets, I find they’re popping up on all sides. Spurred on by the old adage that ’One’s company, two’s a crowd and three’s an invasion’ I decided to look further. This is what I found…
Stag Beetle Hotspot Top Ten
This is the season to see Stag Beetles. They emerge in May with the sole purpose of mating, and die in August once the eggs have been laid in a suitable piece of decaying wood. Look for the adults on balmy summer evenings, the males flying in search of mates and the smaller females walking along the ground on the edges of paths or through the ground litter of fallen leaves
In June 2011 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds asked people living in London to report sightings of this rarely seen insect. Analysis of thousands of observations suggested that Stag Beetles are to be found in about 20% of London gardens.
The Stag Beetle range in the U.K is largely confined to London and the south east of England. They like it here and who can blame them? The population is steady at present but numbers have dropped in other parts of Europe which has prompted its designation as a priority species.
The RSPB survey also produced a Top Ten of London hotspots popular with Stag Beetles – and Richmond came in at No 3 with Kingston at No. 6 – so we’re surrounded (The full Top Ten is at the bottom of this article.)
London Zoo say that for all their fearsome appearance Stag Beetles are amongst the most popular insects in Great Britain. Despite their mighty jaws Stag Beetles do not bite and are not harmful to humans.
Stag beetles are protected in the UK under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended.
Because of their size and menacing form Stag Beetles have found themselves landed with some unusual names like Devil’s Beetles, Cherry Eaters, Devil’s Imps, Horny Bug – once a favourite in these parts, Horse Pincher, Oak-Ox and Thunder Beetle.
The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species are currently running the ‘Great Stag Hunt’ – a nationwide survey into Stag Beetle numbers and they are inviting everyone to take part. For a lot more information on Stag Beetles and details on how you can join the survey please go to their website.
Once upon a time…
…A stag beetle and a ladybird met on a forest path. “Blimey!” said the ladybird, “You’re very big!”. “Yes” said the stag beetle, “And you’re very small!” “That’s right”, said the ladybird, “But I’ve been ill.”
How to find stag beetles
Stag Beetles are a group of about 1,200 species of beetle in the family Lucanidae. They prefer oak woodlands, but can be found in gardens, hedgerows and parks. The larvae depend on old trees and rotting wood to live in and feed on, and can take up to six years to develop before they pupate and turn into adults. The adults have a much shorter lifespan, appearing in May to mate and dying in August once the eggs have been laid. If you do find one leave it alone unless it is in the middle of a busy road or pavement. Then gently pick it up, think BURP, and move it to a nearby hedgerow, garden or woodland. It will appreciate the kindness.
Stag Beetles males fighting…
— from Martyn Day