People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been recording stag beetle sightings for two decades. Now, it 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 metres, 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!
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.
Stag friendly garden tips
To combat this habitat loss, PTES is 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. There are instructions on how to identify adults and their larvae on PTES’ website too.
Stag beetle monitoring in Europe
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.”
Take part in the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network survey.
Stag beetles in Britain
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 the PTES website 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.