Stag Beetle champion, Ross Piper: “The fleeting adult stage of the stag beetle is outlandish in appearance and clattering in flight. Seeing one is a joy, making you feel like a big kid.” Ross is an entomologist and BBC presenter
Britain’s biggest beetle is a shiny beast up to 7.5cm long, with massive mandibles in the adult male wielded in battles with rivals. But in truth males are not as pugnacious as billed – you’re unlikely to witness a scrap. Instead look out for their territorial flights.
On sultry May and June evenings males patrol the same circuit over and over – rather clumsily -prospecting for females to mate with. The latter have modest jaws and are seldom seen.
This most urban of beetles loves leafy gardens and the edges of parks and commons, with strongholds in the south-east and New Forest. “It has an incredibly local distribution,” says researcher Deborah Harvey. “Often it frequents one side of a street but not the other.”
The species lives six weeks as an adult, yet five or six years underground as a wood-munching grub. Garden owners can help this scarce insect by drilling holes in buckets, filling them with wood chippings, then burying them in their flowerbeds as artificial nesting sites.
Best places to see a stag beetle:
- Colchester gardens, Essex
- New Forest gardens, Hampshire
- Richmond Court, London
- Wimbledon Common, London
Help the stag beetle by taking part in this People’s Trust for Endangered Species Great Stag Hunt survey that runs from 1 April to 31 August.