Press release: Great Stag Hunt Survey- Precious Time is Running Out for Britain’s Largest Beetle

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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,, 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:

For further information, interview requests, or images please call Jake Baker or Susannah Penn at Firebird PR on 01235 835297 or email

Notes to Editors:

About Stag Beetles
The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is the largest of Britain’s beetles. The stag beetle goes through three stages during its life cycle. During the first stage, the larva will hatch from its egg and begin to consume enough food from rotten wood to last throughout its entire life above ground. This process can take between three and seven years. The second stage sees the larva undergo pupation, where it begins to transform into a stag beetle. The stag beetle will hatch from the pupal case at around the beginning of winter, so stays underground until the end of the following spring. During the third stage of its life cycle, the stag beetle emerges around May, having three months at best to find a mate, in order to repeat the cycle. It relies on fat reserves stored as a larva but can use its fury tongue to drink juices from fallen fruit, tree sap and water.

About PTES
PTES is a UK conservation charity created in 1977 to ensure a future for endangered species throughout the world. Working to protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, it provides practical conservation support through funding research and internships; providing grant-aid for world-wide and native mammals species conservation; supporting education, training and outreach programmes; and driving public participation via wildlife monitoring surveys, publications, campaigns and events. Priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafer and stag beetles and traditional orchards and native woodlands.

About the Great Stag Hunt Survey
For several years, PTES have been collecting volunteer’s stag beetle records in order to build an up to date picture of where they are, and where they need help. For the last 10 years, PTES has funded research into stag beetles with Prof Alan Gange and Dr Deborah Harvey at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). Together they have written the Biodiversity Action Plan for this threatened insect.

Record your sighting of a stag beetle here.

Let's keep in touch...

We'd love to tell you about our conservation work through our regular newsletter Wildlife World, and also how you can save endangered species through volunteering, taking action or donating. You must be 18 or over. The information that you provide will be held by People’s Trust for Endangered Species. For information on how PTES processes personal data, please see our privacy policy.

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