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Vernacular and dialect names of stag beetles - Lucanus cervus, (Linnaeus, 1758) - in various countries

Male stag beetle on the pavement, Maria Fremlin 2003 This page shows a collection of names for Lucanus cervus (Linnaeus, 1758), a male is shown on the left.
It is a flash photograph which clearly enhances the characteristic shiny chestnut brown colour of the wing cases and mandibles; the rest of the body is shiny black.
Ideally I would like to know what this beetle is called in all the areas that it is/was common.
[?] - indicates either a missing name or information that needs either further explanation or confirmation of its authenticity.
Please have a good look at what I've written about it here and then send me your contributions and comments.





Albania [?]
Austria Hirschkäfer Hirsch (stag), Käfer (beetle).
Tyrol Hutklupper Hut (hat), Klupper (washing peg, pincer). See Verona.
Azerbaijan Pis pisa/ donsan gurdu/ bojek Bojek (beetle). Colloquial usage; similar to the way we say cat/ pussy/ moggy.
Belarus [?]
Belgium Lucane (French) Probably derived from the scientific name. See Lucanus.
Grand cerf-volant (French) Grand (great), cerf (deer/buck), volant (flying).
Grande biche (French) Grande (great), biche (doe).
Wallonia Bièsse di tonnî (Wallon) [?]
Dragon (Wallon) Dragon
Airson (Wallon) [?]
FlandersVliegend hert (Flemish)Vliegend (flying), hert (deer).
Koenijper/koeiennijper (Flemish)Koe (cow)/koeien (cows), nijper (pincher). Name often used by old people.
Hoornbeest (Flemish)Hoor (horn), beest (beast).
Hertekever (Flemish)Hert (deer), kever (beetle).
Scharrebijter/schallebijter (Flemish)Scharren/schal(l)en (scissors/lobster pincers), bijter (person who bites).
BosniaJelenak Jelen (deer), -ak (diminutive).
Bulgaria Рогач
Rog (horn), -ach (something), -ka (diminutive).
CroatiaJelenjak Jelen (deer), -jak (diminutive).
Czech RepublicRohác obecný Roh (horn), -ác (something), obecný (common or ordinary).
DenmarkEghjort Eg (oak), hjort (deer). Top
England Stag beetle Stag is the specific English name for the adult male red deer (Cervus elaphus) and indeed the stag beetles have a lovely reddish-chestnut hue in their mandibles and elytra.
Essex & Suffolk Billywitch Association with witchcraft perhaps because stag beetles in flight look a bit like a witch on a broomstick.
However "Billywitch" is also used indiscriminately for the common or May chafer, (Melolontha melolontha), the summer or June chafer, (Amphimallon solstitialis) and the rose chafer (Cetonia aurata). [1]
In any case all these beetles are good flyers, and make a remarkable high pitched buzzing noise. Listen here for a stag beetle in flight.
KentCherry-eatersAdults may occasionally feed on cherries. During mid 20th century this name was used at Rainham, Kent. [2]
Devil's beetlesName used a long time ago by someone originally from Aberdeen, Scotland.
Devil's imps Stag beetles were thought to damage the crops, and were kept away by pelting them with stones.
SurreyHorny bugName used 60 years ago.
Hornbug [7]
Horse pincher
Oak-oxActon, a stag beetle hotspot in London, derives from Actun - an old English name for oak settlement. Apparently Acton used to have a lot of oak trees hundreds of years ago.
Thunder-beetleThunder comes from the Latin name tonare 'to thunder'; which in Old English became thunor, hence "Thunor", the thunder-god, or "Thor" in Scandinavian. Mythological association with stormy days when the beetles like flying. See Donnerpuppe. Top
EstoniaPõderpõrnikasPõder (elk), põrnikas (beetle). Note that the deer doesn't live in Estonia or Finland. There is elk plus two kinds of reindeer (Lappish, the Santa Claus reindeer, and Forest Reindeer) and the white-tailed "Bambi" (animals imported from Canada in the Thirties) and roebuck - rare fifty years ago but nowadays a fast growing population. Top
FinlandTammihärkäTammi (oak), härkä (bull).
Lucanus cervus northern range doesn't quite reach Finland. However there are oaks (Quercus robur) in the southern end of the country. Top
FranceCerf-volantCerf (deer), volant (flying). The French word for kite is cerf-volant. This perhaps has roots in a very old game, mentioned in Greek mythology, of flying stag beetles attached to a tether. [5]
Cheval du diableCheval (horse), diable (devil). See Teufelspferd.
Lyon regionTuroTuro (bull). [5]
PerpignanCervòl volador (Catalan)Cervòl (cerf), volador (flying).
Escanyapolls (Catalan)Escanyar (to cut), poll (young chicken). Please note that 'poll' also means louse or the poplar tree (Populus spp.) [3] Top
GermanyHirschkäferHirsch (stag), Käfer (beetle).
Nowadays this is the common name for stag beetles; it is also the name used in scientific publications and in the red data list. However there are some very interesting old names, shown below. [4]
Schröter"Schröter" was the man who prepared the grain for the miller by threshing the ears, the thresher.
To me this name seems to refer to the wood-eating habits of the larvae, which kind of shred the wood as they munch along and consequently fill their tunnels with frass. For more read How stag beetle larvae feed.
This name was found only in the "Bundesartenschutzverordnung", a German list of species protected by law. [4]
"Schröter" as a profession no longer exists, but it remains as a family name and is also used for smaller species. For example, Sinodendron cylindricum is called "Kopfhornschröter": Kopf (head), Horn (horn) and Schröter.
HirschschröterHirsch (stag), Schröter.
HornschröterHorn (horn), Schröter.
FeuerschröterFeuer (fire), Schröter. The names including "fire" and "burning" are very old and part of a myth. There was a superstition that Lucanus cervus came to fires with the purpose to take it to burn down houses.
HausbrennerHaus (house), Brenner (burner). As above.
FeueranzünderFeueran (fire), Anzünder (lighter). As above.
KöhlerCharcoal burner. As above.
FeuerwurmFeuer (fire), Wurm (worm). As above.
BörnerBurner. As above.
DonnerpuppeDonner (thunder), Puppe (puppet). Then it was also believed that stag beetles were the "holy animals" of the German god "Donar" ("Thor"), who was the god of thunder. This superstition was possibly based on them living in old oaks damaged by lightning.
DonnerkäferDonner (thunder), Käfer (beetle). As above.
TeufelspferdTeufels (devil's), Pferd (horse). Witchcraft association.
PferdeklemmerPferde (horse), Klemmer (pincher).
WaldkäferWald (woodland), Käfer (beetle). Habitat association.
EichochsEich (oak), Ochs (ox). Top
GreeceΕλαφοκανθαρος (Elafokantharos) Elafos (deer), kantharos (beetle), modern Greek.
Classical Greek name. Kera is from keras (horn), ambyx (woman's diadem or horse's headband). In a Greek myth the shepherd Kerambos was metamorphosed into a 'Kerambyx' as a punishment (Nicandre, Metamorphoses, Book I), by Antoninus Liberalis, around AD 150. [5] [6] Top
Hungary Szarvasbogár Szarvas (deer), bog´r (beetle). Top
Italy Cervo volante Cervo (deer), volante (flying).
Bucarone del cornoBucarone (?), del (of the), corno (horn).
CerambixThe Latin form of Kerambyx. Curiously Linnaeus didn't not use this name for the stag beetle who features in an ancient Greek myth, but instead chose it for a long horned beetle whose larvae feed on live oak wood. Cerambyx cerdo (Linnaeus, 1758), is now now extinct in Britain. [5] [6]
LucanusFrom the Latin name lucus (forest, woodland, grove). Lucanus is the name used by Plinius the Elder to describe the stag beetle (Natural History, Book XI, Chapter 34). [5][8]
LombardyCornabòPossibly from Cornua-bos. Cornua (horn), -bos (ox or cow). Very close to escornabois, also Cornenci. [6]
VeronaPesa-capeiPesa (weigh), capei (hair) - hair pincers. Perhaps, at some stage, their antlers were used as hair pincers [?]. Nowadays they still hang on the silver chain worn with the traditional Bavarian costume "Charivari". [5]
Pesa-feroPesa (weigh), fero (iron). To do with an old custom of using the stag beetles in a guessing the weight game, whereby a stag beetle was held by hand, and a hat, stone or a piece of iron was placed between its pincers.[5]
Porta-sassiPorta (carry), sassi (stones). As above. Top
Israelאײל׳ת סורית
(Ayalit surit)
Ayalit (female deer), surit (Syrian); it is a female deer because beetle in Hebrew is a feminine word.Top
Japan KuwagataKuwa (plow), gata (shape or type). This is a generic name for stag beetles; in Japan there are 35 native Lucanidae species but they don't have Lucanus cervus. Top
LatviaDižā briežvaboleDižā (great), briež (deer, stag), vabole (beetle). Top
LithuaniaElniaragisElnias (deer), ragas (horn). Top
Elen (deer), -che (diminutive). Interestingly, there is a Ukrainian-born U.S. starlet whose name is Erika Eleniak. Top
MoldovaRădaşcăLittle horned beetle. Borrowed from Bulgarian - rogachka - or maybe from Old Slavonic, which was used in Orthodox Eastern Europe countries much like Latin was used in Catholic Western Europe. [6] Top
Vaca-popiiVaca (cow), poppii (the genitive of popa, synonymous with priest) - the priest's cow. It is number 24 on the linked page, where EN means endangered, CR meas critical. [6] Top
NetherlandsVliegend hert Vliegend (flying), hert (deer).
Groot vliegend hertGroot (great), vliegend hert.
HertkeverHert (deer), kever (beetle). This name was used in the past. Top
NorwayEikhjort Eik (oak), hjort (deer). Top
PolandJelonek rogaczJelonek (young stag or hart), rogacz (with big horns).
A folk meaning of "rogacz" is also a husband of an unfaithful wife; but this seems not quite applicable to the biggest beetle living in Poland. Top
PortugalMinhoVaca-louraVaca (cow), loura (fair, blonde)). It refers to the shape of the horns of some Iberian cattle; for instance here is a photo of the Barrosã. See vacaloura, Galícia, Spain.
Cabra-louraCabra (goat), loura (fair, blonde). Perhaps, like above, it refers to the similarity with the horns of some goats.
CarochaThis is a generic name for beetles, which is also used for Lucanus cervus in some regions. Top
RomaniaRădaşcăLittle horned beetle. Borrowed from Bulgarian - rogachka - or maybe from Old Slavonic, which was used in Orthodox Eastern Europe countries much like Latin was used in Catholic Western Europe. [6] Top
TransylvaniaCornenciCorn (horn), -enci (something). [6] Top
Zhuk (beetle), olen (deer). Top
Jelen (deer), -ak (diminutive). Top
SlovakiaRohac velkyRoh (horn), -ac (diminutive), velky (large or big).
Rohac obycajnyRoahac, obycajny (common). Obycajny is now not widely used because of conservation reasons.
SloveniaRogačRog (horn), -ač (diminutive). Top
SpainCiervo volante (Castilian)Ciervo (deer), volante (flying).
Gusano con cuernosGusano (grub), con (with), cuernos (horns). [5]
AstúriasBacalloira (Asturian)Baca (cow), lloira is possibly from alloriar (to be crazy). It refers to the tumbling movement of the beetle. [?]
Or else it has the same meaning as the Galicean Vacaloura, see below.
CatalóniaEscanyapolls (Catalan)Escanyar (to cut), poll (young chicken). Please note that 'poll' also means louse or the poplar tree (Populus spp.). [3]
GalíciaAlicornio (Galician)Ali (to do with wings), cornio (to do with horn). Alicornio is a unicorn with wings on its legs, a Galician mythological figure, see Galipedia.
Cascuda (Galician)Thick skinned.
Cornetán (Galician)Corno (horn).
Escornabois (Galician)Escornar (to attack with horns), bois (oxen). Curiously there is a even a small village in Galicia called /Escornabois. See Cornabò.
Vacaloura (Galician)Vaca (cow), loura (fair, golden). See Vaca-loura, Minho, Portugal. Top
SwedenEkoxeEk (oak), oxe (bull). Top
SwitzerlandCerf-volant (French)Cerf (deer), volant (flying).
Lucane (French)Probably derived from the scientific name. See Lucanus.
Cervo volante (Italian)Cervo (deer), volante (flying).
Hirschkäfer (German)Hirsch (stag), Käfer (beetle).
[?] (Romansh)Top
TurkeyGeyik böceğiGeyik (stag), böceği (beetle).
UkraineЖук рогач
(Zhuk rogach)
Zhuk (beetle), rog (horn), -ach (something). Top
WalesChwilen gorniogChwilen (beetle), gorniog (horned). Top

[1] Jerry Bowdrey - The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) L. in north-east Essex: Results of the 1996 Colchester "Search for Stag Beetles" survey. Essex Naturalist, 1997, 79-88. [PDF]
[2] Colin R. Pratt - The Stag Beetle in Great Britain, Summer 2003. Published by the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton & Hove Council. ISBN 0948723574.
[3] Personal communication from Jean-André Magdalou, Reserve Naturélle de la forêt de la Massane, France.
[4] The list of very old German names was given to the site by Frank Köhler, www.koleopterologie.de. Most of the names were found in Klausnitzer, B. (1982): Die Hirschkäfer. - Neue Brehm-Bücherei 551 (A. Ziemsen Verlag, Wittenberg). Many are based on Ratzeburg, J. T. C. (1839): Die Forstinsekten. Part 1. - Berlin.
[5] Eva Sprecher and Georgio Taroni - Lucanus cervus depictus, in chapters: Mythology, Superstition and Legend, and The Stag-Beetle in the Entomology.
[6] Personal communication from Adrian Bocaniciu of Romania.
[7] Colin Hawes - The Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus (L.) (Coleoptera: Lucanidae) in the County of Suffolk (England): Distribution and Monitoring. Proceedings of the 3rd Symposium and Workshop on the Conservation of Saproxylic Beetles. Riga/ Latvia, July 2004.
[8] Franciscolo, M.E. (1997) Coleoptera, Lucanidae, Fauna d'Italia, 35: 228 pp. Edizioni Calderini, Bologna, ISBN 88-8219-017-X. [This book is now out of print but a pdf is available on request.]

For the distribution and current status of the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) in most of the countries mentioned above, please visit Marcos Mendez posting in the Working Group of Iberian Lucanidae (GTLI).
For Arno Thomaes' genetic research visit Phylogeography and phylogeny on the Stag beetle (Lucanus sp) in the West-Palaearctic.

Acknowledgments: First of all my special thanks to Peter Hodge for supporting this project by giving me some of the contacts below, and also for putting me in touch with other entomologists who have generously contributed with their knowledge to this site. Then I'm also very grateful to the following contributors to the above list:
Jutta Austin, Arvids Barševskis, Don Bates, Adrian Bocaniciu, Luc Crevecoeur, Attila Csenki, Philip Francis, Adrian Fowles, Siegfried Graf, Pat Green, José Manuel Grosso-Silva, John Hatto, Claire Hengeveld, Theodoor Heijerman, Paul Hendriks, Gemma Espinosa Hernandez, Andreas Herrmann, Robert Hill, Peter Hodge, Nicklas Jansson, Mark Jones, Alexander G.Kirejtshuk, Frank Köhler, Vladimir T. Krpach, Miklos Laczkovich, Language hat, Anastasios Legakis, Suvad Lelo, Sergiy V. Libenson, Gianfranco Liberti, Dr. Dmitri V. Logunov, Jean-André Magdalou, Emanuel Mair, Marcos Mendez, Dr. Hidemasa Motoshima, Doug Napier, David Garcia Pagan, Roman Pol, Andras Rajki, Oz Rittner, Heinz Rothacher, Iva Salis, Davide Scaccini, Eva Sprecher, Jukka Suvisaari, Serdar Tezcan, Dmitry Telnov, Arno Thomaes, Gisella Curioni Tokley, Tomi Trilar, Milos Tryzna, Ruth Yates and Peter Zach.

Lucanidae - Wikispecies - There are some interesting names in this page too.
I found this site Computing with Accents, Symbols & Foreign Scripts, absolutely invaluable; it has enabled me to get rid of a lot of names in picture files.
The Pherobase Common Names.

Last modified: Mon May 29 2017

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