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Extraordinary nuptial flight

by Ilija Vukomanovic

Male and female stag beetles

Photo by Ilija Vukomanovic. Bükk National Park, North East Hungary.
June 11 11.46 2013.

These beetles were flying in tandem, a noisy and cumbersome process which was audible before they came into view. They circled around for a few moments and then crashed into a small oak tree growing in a meadow near woodland edge. As we went to look for them they could be heard clattering down through the branches.
A careful search of the area beneath the tree was unsuccessful but they were eventually found clinging to the trunk about one metre above ground level a few minutes after they had landed. At first, I thought they were a mating pair, but soon realised this was not the case when I saw them through the lens.

Stag beetles were extremely numerous in this area. They were abundant in the grounds of our hotel and could be found climbing up walls and steps, climbing over the car and I even found one in my room!
I showed this image to our host and he told me that, last year, he had found what he described as a “master tree” with over forty stag beetles, including several mating pairs, very close to where I had taken the photograph, but he had never seen this behaviour before.

Some comments:
This tandem flight was an extraordinary observation. This flight behaviour has never been reported before for stag beetles. Bess beetles have been seen in a nuptial flight, though in the evening [1].
This photo is suggestive of either pre-copulatory or mate-guarding behaviour.
If you ever see this behaviour in the UK, please, get in touch with me. I would be very interested because, after all these years of living in a stag beetle hotspot, I have never seen anything like it!

[1] - MacGown, J.A. and MacGown, M.J. (1996)   Observation of a nuptial flight of the horned Passalus beetle,Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger) (Coleoptera: Passalidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 50: 201-203. [PDF]

Warmest thanks to Ilija Vukomanovic for sharing his observations and beautiful photo with the website.

Last modified: Sat Jan 23 2016

| Main | Lucanus cervus mating behaviour | Mate-guarding behaviour in stag beetles |