Creating log piles and recording sightings of adult stag beetles (or larvae), are just two ways you can help endangered stag beetles – Britain’s largest land beetle – this summer.
Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been recording stag beetle sightings for two decades. You can report any stag beetle sightings to PTES at www.ptes.org/gsh. Now, this May, PTES is calling for anyone who lives in a known stag beetle area to carry out a more in depth survey as part of an ongoing study – the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network – to build on the 21 years of records PTES has already collected for this species.
Taking part in this European study couldn’t be easier – all volunteers need to do is walk 500 meters, on six occasions between June and July on warm, summer evenings, recording any stag beetles they see. Families, individuals, or groups of friends can all help – whether you’re on your evening dog walk or walking to your local pub! To find out more, visit: www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org
The European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network is co-funded by PTES, and was set up by the Research Institute for Nature and Forest in 2008. It comprises partner institutes and universities from 14 European countries including the UK, Spain, France and Germany. The network aims to assess population levels across Europe, monitoring the stag beetle’s full range.
Laura Bower, Conservation Officer at PTES explains: “We have been running the Great Stag Hunt, and other conservation initiatives for stag beetles, for over 20 years. Thanks to the thousands of people who have recorded their stag beetle sightings over the years, we now have a really good idea of where stag beetles live, but what we don’t yet know is whether their numbers are going up or down. Now, we want people to go one step further and take part in this European study too, so we can understand how stag beetles are faring on a wider scale.”
Stag beetles are the UK’s largest land beetle: males can each up to 8cm in length! Despite their appearance, with their large antler-like jaws, they are harmless, with adults only living for a few weeks during the summer to find a mate. The life cycle of a stag beetle lasts for several years, but their numbers are declining due to the lack of rotting (or dead) wood, which is needed for adults to lay their eggs near and for their young to feed on.
To combat this habitat loss, PTES is also keen for those with gardens to help by making simple, stag beetle friendly changes, making gardens across the UK stag beetle havens. These actions could include:
- Building a log pile: All you need is an outdoor space, some wood and PTES’ FREE instruction sheet, which you can download from here.
- Leave dead wood: If you have old tree stumps or deadwood in your garden, leave them alone if you can, as these are ideal habitats for stag beetles.
- Protect them from dangers: Stag beetles like warm surfaces, such as tarmac roads and pavements, which make them vulnerable to being squashed by humans and vehicles. So be wary where you walk and look out for magpies and cats, who can also predate on stag beetles.
- If you find a stag beetle: It’s usually best to leave them alone. If you dig up stag beetle larvae whilst gardening, return it to where you found it and replace the soil and rotting wood.
- Record your sightings: If you are lucky enough to see a stag beetle, please record your sighting (with a photo, if possible!) via the Great Stag Hunt: www.ptes.org/gsh There are instructions on how to identify adults and their larvae on PTES’ website too.
Stag beetles are found throughout Western Europe and are relatively widespread in southern England, particularly along the Thames Valley and parts of Essex, Suffolk, Hampshire and West Sussex. There are also known populations in the Severn Valley, but elsewhere in Britain they are very rare or possibly even extinct. Areas with chalky soils, such as the South Downs, or areas where the average air temperature is low and rainfall is high, such as the north of England, are unlikely to be home to stag beetles. Visit www.ptes.org/stagbeetles to find out more, including how to build a log pile or pyramid, ID guides so you know a stag when you see one, and to record your sightings. Visit www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org to take part in the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network survey.
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Available for interview
- Laura Bower, Conservation Officer, PTES
- Jill Nelson, CEO, PTES
- PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events.
- PTES’ current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
- PTES has Species Champions for three of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell and Secretary of State for Transport, for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, and for dormice The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
- Visit www.ptes.org and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About stag beetles
- The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is the largest of Britain’s terrestrial beetles. Stag beetles spend the majority of their very long-life cycle underground as a larva. This can be anywhere from three to five years depending on the weather. Periods of very cold weather can extend the process. Once fully grown, the larvae leave the rotting wood they have been feeding on to build a large ovoid cocoon in the soil where they pupate and finally metamorphose into an adult. Adults spend the winter underground in the soil and usually emerge from mid-May onwards. By the end of August, most of them will have died. They do not survive the winter. 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 the Great Stag Hunt
- For over 20 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. To record your sighting of a stag beetle, visit www.ptes.org/stagbeetles
- The table below shows the number of verified stag beetle records per region, in 2018:
|County||Number of stag beetle sightings in 2018*|
|Isle of Wight||12|
*(could include adults or larvae and could also be a sighting of more than one beetle)
Total numbers seen
Males vs. females