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Record numbers of stag beetle sightings from Great Stag Hunt 2020

As the largest land beetle in the UK and with their distinctive ‘stag’ antlers, stag beetles are one of our most spectacular creatures.

Magnificent minibeasts

Stag beetles have a remarkable life cycle, spending the majority of their life underground as larvae and only emerging for a few weeks in the summer to find a mate and reproduce. During the summer, stag beetles can be found flying around in many habitats including woodland edges, hedgerows, traditional orchards, parks and gardens.

Male stag beetle spotted by Andrew Neal.
Male stag beetle spotted by Andrew Neal.

Although they are relatively widespread in southern England, stag beetles are sadly in decline and extremely rare in the rest of Britain and have even become extinct in two European countries. We cannot let that happen here.

Last summer, we asked the public to look out for stag beetles in the 2020 Great Stag Hunt. We had a fantastic response, with more than double the usual number of records submitted.

Our highest ever number of sightings

There were 16,766 stag beetle records submitted (as of 30/9/20) to the Great Stag Hunt. This far surpasses any other year we have run the survey. Once verified, there were found to be 14,281 stag beetle records (this is a sighting and may include more than one beetle, and or larvae). Of the 18,805 adults recorded, 7,754 were female and 10,048 were male (1,003 were unknown). There were 1224 larvae recorded.

GSH 2020 record
Map of the Great Stag Hunt 2020 records.

There were several new sites for stag beetles including two of particular note as they are on the edge of the range. 1) Starcross in Devon and 2) Long Stratton in Norfolk. Female stag beetles are quite picky and prefer light soils that are easier to dig down into and areas with the highest average air temperatures and lowest rainfall throughout the year. Therefore, it is exciting that stag beetles have been found in different sites around the country.

Appreciation of nature in lockdown

There have been numerous reports of how the UK lockdown increased our engagement with the natural environment. Of course, some of our surveys were impossible to take part in during this period due to travel restrictions to monitoring sites. However, our other surveys such as Living with Mammals and the Great Stag Hunt were accessible, and many of you reported how much you enjoyed taking part from home, making the most of your gardens and taking notice of nature. This may well have contributed to this year’s rise in stag beetle reported sightings and it is a positive sign of growing interest in and appreciation of the natural world. We are also thankful for receiving funding from Back from the Brink’s Ancients of the Future project, which allowed us to promote the Great Stag Hunt to a much bigger audience this year. 

We had many amazing photos submitted to us during the Great Stag Hunt. Check them out here:

Learn more about stag beetles and tell us about any sightings here:

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