What do they look like? Classification
Stag beetles are Britain’s largest Kingdom: Animalia
terrestrial beetle, named because the
male’s huge jaws look like a stag’s
antlers. Males can be up to 7 cm long, Class: Insecta
females are smaller and do not have Order: Coleoptera
the characteristic ‘antlers’ of the male. Family: Staphylinidae
Both sexes have a shiny black head
and thorax (chest) and the wing cases
are a chestnut brown. Species: L. cervus
Don’t confuse these with the lesser stag beetle, which has smaller antlers and black wing cases.
How else might I recognise one?
You might see a male in flight on warm summer evenings between May and August, while they
are searching for mates. They are attracted by lights so you might see them on patios at night,
but be careful not to confuse them with cockchafers, which are also attracted to lights.
The eggs hatch into large white grubs with orange heads.
What do they eat?
Larvae feed on rotten wood. Little is known about the feeding habits of adult stag beetles,
although adult females have been seen feeding on sweet fermenting juices oozing from
wounded oaks. Most adults may not feed at all during their short lives – they only live up to 40
days as adults, usually dying shortly after mating.
Where do they live?
The larvae need rotting wood in which to feed and grow. In Worcestershire they are mostly
found around Upton-upon-Severn.
Why are they special to Worcestershire?
Stag beetles are most commonly found in southeast England, and Worcestershire is the
northern edge of their range. Populations everywhere are declining.
Did you know?
It can take up to five years for the larvae to develop into adults, but they only live as adults
for up to 40 days in the summer.
The antlers are for fighting for territory between males, not for attacking prey. In Japan
‘stag beetle fights’ are organised between males for entertainment.
In Germany there is a myth that if you place a stag beetle on your head, it will protect you
from being struck by lightening!
Problems and solutions?
A particular problem is a lack of suitable rotting wood for the females to lay eggs in. This is
often due to the tidying up of woodlands, parks and gardens. Whenever possible logs and
stumps should be left lying on the ground in shady places.
What can I do to help?
Leave a pile of fallen wood undisturbed in the corner of your garden or school wildlife area.
Wood from broad-leaved trees such as oak and beech is best. They should be in partial shade
to prevent them drying out. You can make a loggery by partially burying some large hardwood
logs in the ground, sinking them in about 60cm. The larger the diameter of the logs the better.
Dead decaying wood will help lots of insects, not just stag beetles.
If you come across a stag beetle in a natural area do not disturb it, and encourage others to
do the same. If it has fallen on its back on a road or pavement, help it get the right way up
using fingers, a small twig or a piece of paper and move it to a safer place.
If you live in an area where stag beetles are seen, keep any water butts covered as the
beetles often land in them but cannot get out again.
rotting oak wood stag beetle larva woodpecker
oak (sap) adult stag beetle fox
oak (sap) adult stag beetle magpie
Find out more.
www.wildlondon.org.uk/cons/stagbeet.htm gives lots of information about stag beetles in
London and how to make loggeries and stag beetle nest boxes.
http://maria.fremlin.de/stagbeetles is a site all about stag beetles and their life-cycles with lots
of advice and pictures on how to build a stag beetle log pyramid.
www.ptes.org/BAPs/stag_beetles.htm is a site produced by The Peoples Trust for Endangered
Species. They give advice on gardening with stag beetles.
Stag beetle helpline. http://www.oursoulz.com/stag You can send off for KS2 and 3 packs and
posters via this site which gives school friendly information about stag beetles, their biology
and how to help them. You can also help with surveys about stag beetles.
Further copies of this factsheet can be downloaded from www.worcestershire.gov.uk/biodiversity