Spectacular stag beetles can reach sizes of 75mm. Sadly their numbers are declining across Europe and they are now extinct in some countries.
Stag beetles are the UK’s largest land beetle and are found across Europe, but sadly they are either declining or have gone extinct in many countries. In the southern parts of the UK they are doing much better but they need our help if they are to hang on.
Befriend a beetle
Stag beetles are threatened by the loss of the habitats in which they live. Stag beetle larvae can live for several years underground and need plenty of rotting wood to eat throughout this time. By tidying parks, woods and gardens and removing tree stumps and log piles, the larvae have nowhere to live and nothing to eat.
When stag beetles emerge as adults, they live only a few weeks while they search for a mate. As an adult stag beetle there are risks to face from humans, cars, cats and magpies.
We can all help improve the chances for stag beetles by making your garden a haven for invertebrates and other wildlife. Befriend a beetle with the following tips:
- If you are lucky enough to see a stag beetle, please log your sighting on our Great Stag Hunt page. This means we can keep track of where stag beetles live and help us take action if they start declining. To record your sighting on the Great Stag Hunt you will need to make a note of the date, time and location that you saw the beetle. If you can take a photo and upload it too, this really helps.
- Leave tree stumps and dead wood where they are – stag beetle larvae might be living there. Instead of removing an old tree stump, why not plant some climbing plants around it and turn it into a garden feature?
- Why not create log pile habitat in your garden? You can learn how to build the perfect stag beetle sanctuary here. This will be great for lots of wildlife wherever you live.
- Cover water butts if you have them in your garden, this way stag beetles can’t fall in and drown
- Remove any plastic sheeting over soil – it might help to protect seedlings but beetles emerging from the earth can get trapped. If you have to use sheeting or nets, remove them by the end of April before beetles start to come out.
- If you have a log pile or rotting tree stump, don’t mow too close to it in May and June. Leaving a grassy border around it until the end of June will make sure beetles don’t get hurt by lawnmower or strimmer blades.
- When beetles emerge in May and June, watch out for predators such as cats and magpies
Learn more on our stag beetle fact file
Stag beetle facts
- Stag beetles are big – up to 75mm long. Only one UK beetle is bigger and that’s a water beetle
- The larvae live in rotting wood for several years before they make a cocoon and transform (pupate) into adult beetles
- Stag beetles emerge in summer and live just a few weeks while they search for a mate
- Adult beetles don’t eat – instead they live on the fat they stored while developing as larva
- The male’s antler-like jaws are used to fight off rival males
Beetle Boy is the story of Darkus, who is having a miserable time. His dad has disappeared and his new next door neighbours are horrible but things start to change when he befriends a beetle called Baxter…
Frequently Asked Questions
I have found an adult stag beetle – what do I do now?
Enjoy observing such a magnificent beetle. Leave it where it is (unless it is in immediate danger of being run over or trodden on) and then record your sighting. If you do have to move a stag beetle for its own safety, then please move it as short a distance as possible (into a nearby hedge or plant for example).
What do I do if I dig up a stag beetle larva?
If you can, put it back exactly where you found it. Or the next best thing is to re-bury the larva in a safe shady place in your garden with as much of the original rotting wood as possible.
The easiest way to tell apart beetle larvae is where you find them. Stag beetle larvae are found in decaying wood underground, lesser stag larvae are found in decaying wood above ground, cockchafer larvae are found in soil feeding on living roots and rose chafers are usually found in compost heaps. Please see our larvae ID guide for photos and further details.
How can you tell the difference between a male and a female stag beetle?
Males have the characteristic large antlers (mandibles) which can be the same size as their body (sometimes bigger) whereas females are smaller and have smaller mandibles. For more information please see our stag beetle fact file.
I have found larvae in my compost heap what should I do?
Any larvae found in a compost heap will usually be rose chafers, as stag beetles tend to live underground in rotting wood. You can leave the larvae where they are as they are beneficial composters.
Will a stag beetle bite me?
If you hold a stag beetle it is possible (though unlikely) that it will bite you. To avoid this please wear gloves if you have to handle a stag beetle or even better don’t try to hold it. They are not poisonous and will leave you alone if you leave them alone.
How can I make my garden suitable for stag beetles?
Stag beetles need decaying wood that is underneath the soil. Your garden may already be ideal for stag beetles with plenty of rotting wood (even wood chip and old fence posts can provide homes for stag beetles!) If not you could make a log pile.
There are stag beetles on an area of land I know is going to be developed – what can I do?
The stag beetle is a species of conservation concern. Its presence will not stop a development but there must be a reasonable survey and mitigation measures put in place if development goes ahead.
For other stag beetle questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How we are helping
We have been funding research into stag beetle biology for a number of years.
For 15 years we have been collecting your stag beetle records in order to build up an up to date picture of where they are, and where they need help.
For the last 10 years we have funded research into stag beetles with Prof Alan Gange and Dr Deborah Harvey at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). Together we have written the Biodiversity Action Plan for this threatened insect and developed the Bury Buckets 4 Beetles scheme. You can also visit RHUL’s stag beetle website for lots more interesting facts and free educational leaflets to download.
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