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Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus - Linnaeus, 1758

Identification hints:
Male stag beetles with their large antlers are absolutely unmistakable.
Their size could vary from 27 to 53 mm, excluding the antlers.
Females are smaller and their size could vary from 26 to 41 mm, excluding the antlers. Yes, both can pinch if disturbed the wrong way! The fact that the male can have such a threatening pose thus avoiding contact has led to the myth that it doesn't pinch. Wrong, I've had to prize one male antler from a thumb, and I've been told of other cases, including one victim that had been pinched by a magpie casualty, that is an abdomen less corpse.
Whole insect shiny, head and thorax black, wing cases and male antlers brown. However the female stag beetle could be confused with its relative the lesser stag beetle Dorcus parallelipipedus.

Male and female stag beetles. The male measured 46 mm excluding the mandibles and the female was 37 mm, both on the large side.

Male and female stag beetles, June 2006. Photo by Maria Fremlin

Photo by Maria Fremlin. Colchester, Essex, England.

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Female stag beetle, 36 mm. Note the lovely chestnut brown colour of the wing cases, an important identification clue, which is absent in the lesser stag beetle female, see here. Also note the teeth in her legs, in particular in the foreleg tibia, which is quite chubby. Females do a lot more digging than the males, specially when they are preparing their nursery. Compare with the spindly male legs below.

Female stag beetle, 2006. Photo by Maria Fremlin

Photo by Maria Fremlin. Colchester, Essex, England. June 7 2006, 09:48 hrs.

This female had just hit our French window in the morning! My husband, at first, thought that it was a bumble bee... A very interesting thing to have observed, females do fly more often than one thinks, even during the day, and this is the second instance that I've recorded it in our back garden. The first one was in the afternoon when a back bird intercepted one in flight, thus drawing my attention to her...

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Large male stag beetle, 46 mm excluding mandibles. Note how much thinner the tibia of his foreleg is in comparison with the one of the female, see above. Also, the nice yellow patch close to the body, on the femur: lots of long golden hairs, all facing forward! The female also has them and so do all the members of the Lucanidae family. Even some dung beetles of the family Geotrupidae have them. It is now known that these patches might help with the dispersal of their pheromones [1]. Stag beetles have poor vision but on the other hand have an acute sense of smell.

Side view of a male stag beetle, 2006. Photo by Maria Fremlin

Photo by Maria Fremlin. Colchester, Essex, England.


Conservation status - The large European stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is not listed as endangered in the UK; it is just a Priority Species for Conservation [2].
Please note that the status of this stag beetle is different in the continent: Near Threatened on the IUCN red list, see http://www.iucnredlist.org.

Legal status - Lucanus cervus is protected in the UK under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended.

[1] - Harvey D.J. (2007)  Aspects of the Biology and Ecology of the Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus). PhD thesis.
[2] - For more, check the latest Natural England review of Scarabaeoidea: A review of the status of the beetles of Great Britain: The stag beetles, dor beetles, dung beetles, chafers and their allies - Lucanidae, Geotrupidae, Trogidae and Scarabaeidae (NECR224), 2016. Link: http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5488450394914816.

Last modified: Tues April 5 2019

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