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Giant stag beetle Lucanus elaphus - Fabricius, 1775

Identification hints:
Dark shiny brown, head and antlers a little paler.
28-60 mm long (including the mandibles), possibly more.
Male has much larger mandibles than the female, at least as long as the elytra.
Occurs in from Virginia, North and South Carolina, west to Oklahoma.
Their larvae feed in dead or decaying wood of logs and stumps.
So even though they occur in woodland they will not damage your trees.
Appears to be an elusive woodland inhabitant, but sometimes turns up in suburban yards.

Below each picture is its author, place where it was taken, and the date.
A million thanks to all the site visitors who have sent me the pictures on this page.

Male Lucanus elaphus in a defensive position. The giant stag beetle is largest beetle in north America.

Male Lucanus elaphus, Durham, NC. 16 June 2004. Photo by Matt Sumner.

Photo by Matt Sumner, Durham, NC, 16 June 2004.

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Another male giant stag beetle, this time simply walking.

Male Lucanus elaphus, Durham, NC, 2 June 2004. Photo by S. Adair Thaxton.

Photo by S. Adair Thaxton, Durham, NC, 2 June 2004.

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Impressive frontal view of another male Lucanus elaphus with its antlers lowered down. Note the triangular labrum. For another view click here.

Male Lucanus elaphus, Greenville, SC, 1 June 2004. Photo by Coy Hollingsworth.

Photo by Coy Hollingsworth, Greenville, SC, 1 June 2004.

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Another impressive view of a somewhat cobwebby male Lucanus elaphus. Stag beetles hide during the day in all kinds of places and sometimes turn up with some attachments, see this picture of a Lucanus cervus. For an identical pose in a Lucanus cervus click here. Impressive aren't they?

Male Lucanus elaphus, Hernando, MS, 30 June 2005. Photo by Kelly Jacobs.

Photo by Kelly Jacobs, Hernando, MS, 30 June 2005.

Kelly wrote: "I rescued this beetle from my cat, who was having fun making the mandibles click when I took it away to take a few pictures. The snapping action of the antlers was great to see, but I thought it might be very stressed from doing so for the cat, so I just took a few quick pictures before tossing it into the brush. I have seen the females and but this was the first male with awesome antlers."
We are all very grateful to Kelly for putting this awesome beetle back in the wild. It was not surprising to gather that she is involved with the Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation.
It would be nice to hear about other instances of males clicking their antlers.

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Female giant stag beetle - see this fantastic picture, by Patrick Coin in the Bugguide.
The females are much harder to find than the males, hence their pictures are rather scarce by camparison.

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