This last week a few stag beetles have been spotted in and around the wood. Stag beetles are Britain’s largest terrestrial beetle and though they used to be pretty widespread throughout Western Europe, their numbers are on the decline. They are now so rare that they have been given “protected species” status on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Stag beetles are dependent on rotten wood in order to survive. It is for this reason that so much dead and felled wood has been left around the park and in the wood. They have a long and mainly secretive life cycle:
- the female mates then lays eggs underground in rotten wood
- the eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the decaying wood for at least three years
- over a month the larva builds itself a cocoon underground that can be as large as an orange
- it takes about 4 months for the larva to transform itself into a beetle and leave its cocoon
- it then spends Autumn and Winter in the ground, emerging onto the surface around May
- the beetle must find a mate before it dies in August
If you see one in the park and it looks as if it could get squashed, please move it *gently* to a safer place out of harms way. NOTE: female stag beetles can give you a nasty nip so be careful! Please also record your sighting on the London Wildlife Trust’s stag beetle database.
A handy guide to identifying different stag beetles
(in the photos above, top left is a “lesser stag beetle” whereas the other 3 photos are of a female – she has small pincers rather than large antlers)