Time is Running Out for Britain’s Largest Beetle

One of Britain’s most recognisable and unique species, the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is unfortunately becoming increasingly rare to find. For fifteen years, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been actively working to halt the decline of this iconic insect. PTES is asking volunteers to join their annual Great Stag Hunt Survey and record any sightings of stag beetles. The survey, which can be found on their website, www.ptes.org, is easy to use and with your input, PTES can better understand how stag beetles numbers are faring in the UK. By the end of May this year, only 384 stag beetles have been recorded, so all contributions are vital to this survey.
For much of their life cycle, stag beetles stay underground as larvae, feeding on rotten wood for up to seven years before building large ovoid cocoons and eventually metamorphosing into their more recognisable form. Given that they take so much time to develop, it is a shame that fully formed stag beetles can only be expected to survive around three months above ground. Threatened by significant loss of habitat and human interactions, adult stag beetles are also at risk from cats and magpies. If they manage to avoid an early departure, then the winter months will finish the job.
Unfortunately, the stag beetle’s tough exterior and formidable looking mandibles encourages some people to kill them without realising they are not harmful to humans. Others, who believe the larvae can destroy living wood or timber are also misinformed, as larvae only feed on decaying wood underground. Added to which, their attraction to the warmth of tarmac and being hunted by natural predators, stag beetles don’t currently stand much of a chance at finding a mate and reproducing before the summer ends.
Alongside the Great Stag Hunt Survey, find out how to create a stag beetle-friendly garden on the PTES website, giving the insect a better chance of survival.
From leaving dead wood on the ground to rot down as food and shelter for larvae, to being mindful of cats outside in the evening, we can all help to support the numbers of stag beetles in Britain. If you spot a stag beetle, head to the website and ensure it is recorded: www.ptes.org/stagbeetles.

Scroll to Top