Bushwood beetles: looking for stag beetles in north London

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This summer, two keen members of Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group in Northeast London took part in our stag beetle count. Laura Bower, PTES’ Conservation Officer, spoke to Sybil and Nate about how they took their participation to another level by encouraging friends and neighbours to look out for stag beetles too and create dead wood habitats in their gardens.

Stag beetles

Log pyramid by Malcolm Farmer
Deadwood log pyramid by Malcolm Farmer

Stag beetles are one of the largest species of beetle in Britain. They are mainly found in south and southeast England with occasional records from Wales and more northerly sites in England. They’re totally reliant on underground dead wood to complete their life cycle, and gardens are a particularly important refuge for them. Although we have a good idea where they live, we don’t really know how their numbers are doing. Are they increasing, decreasing or stable? That’s where the Stag Beetle Count can help.

Surveying stag beetles

Sybil Ritten and Nate Howard from Wren Wildlife & Conservation Group near Epping Forest, northeast London took part in our stag beetle count this summer. Nate is just 12 years old but is already a very committed young ecologist.

Sybil and Nate set up two 500m transects (a straight line or narrow section along which observations are made) and walked them six times during June and July as the survey method recommends. Unfortunately, they didn’t see any stag beetles during their survey walks but they did see stag beetles elsewhere and at other times, so they reported these sightings to our Great Stag Hunt.

They also spotted several of the stag beetles’ smaller cousin the lesser stag beetle which is much more common and widespread.

Epping Forest

Epping Forest is a large ancient forest with a unique mix of habitats and species and is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Its population of stag beetles and key location within the stag beetle range are two of the primary reasons it was selected for designation.

Stag beetles are seen more often in the southern London boroughs than those north of the river, but Epping Forest and neighbouring areas in northeast London are an exception to this pattern.

Raising awareness of stag beetles

Sybil and Nate took their involvement to a whole new level and did a fantastic job of raising awareness of stag beetles and their habitat needs to local people.

They set up an information stand in Bushwood at the end of May to alert and inform people about stag beetles and how to report them. They also displayed several posters in the Bushwood area. The duo gave a talk to the Ferndale residents Association AGM and set up an information stand at the Wren Wildlife Weekend. They also wrote articles for the Wren Spring Newsletter, the Wanstead Village Directory and the Bush Telegraph newspaper for the Bushwood residents’ association which is local to the area, all about stag beetles and encouraging people to record them and get in touch.

I’d like to personally thank Sybil, Nate, and the Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group for their amazing efforts to help stag beetles.

The Stag Beetle Count survey is run by a collaboration of NGOs and universities across Europe (European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network) with the common aim of keeping an eye on stag beetles throughout their range. You can find more information on how you can take part in this survey here:

Header image credit Duncan Wright

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