Earlier this week this gorgeous creature visited our garden. This is a male stag beetle and he has only a couple of months to find a mate, surviving mostly on the fat reserves that he built up while a larvae. Stag beetle larvae live underground for between three and seven years feasting on the decaying wood where the female beetle laid her eggs. Once fully grown, and they can be up to 11cm long, the larvae leave the rotting wood they have been feeding on to build a large cocoon in the soil where they pupate and finally metamorphose into an adult. Adults spend the winter underground and usually emerge from mid-May onwards. Once they have emerged, the beetles will only live for a few months and will not see another winter.
Although both male and female beetles can fly, the males can’t fly very far and the females prefer to walk. The males take to the air towards dusk on a warm still evening and fly around looking for a female to mate with. If they are successful then the female will return to where she emerged and look for suitable decaying wood in which to lay her eggs.
Stag beetle numbers have declined across Western Europe, mainly because development (and our tendency to tidy up fallen wood) is fragmenting their populations. We can help them by leaving wood to rot where it falls or by building “loggeries” near to existing stag beetle populations. Adult beetles are seen regularly in Binfield, and there are stag beetle loggeries in Wicks Green, Popes Meadow, Piglittle Copse, and Wykery Copse. Bracknell Forest Council has set a target of at least two loggeries in every public woodland site by 2023.
If you find an adult stag beetle, please leave it where it is, unless it is in danger of being run over or trodden on. If you have to move a beetle for its own safety, then please move it as short a distance as possible.
If you dig up a stag beetle larva, please put it back exactly where you found it. The next best thing is to re-bury the larva in a safe shady place in your garden with as much of the original rotting wood as possible.
If you find a stag beetle, dead or alive, please record your sighting here - https://ptes.org/get-involved/surveys/garden/great-stag-hunt/stag-hunt-survey/. There is also a beetle identification guide on this site.
We'd love to hear from you if you see one. We can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.