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jardin-perdu / Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) in France. French name: le Lucane cerf-volant
Male Stag Beetle

Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)

French name: le Lucane cerf-volant

Whilst on a local walk a couple of weeks ago we stumbled across this male stag beetle.

Male Stag beetle, Lucanus cervus, le Lucane cerf-volant

Stag beetles lead quite fascinating, if not slightly sad lives. The larvae of the stag beetle live in and off old trees and rotting wood, it can take up to six years for a larva to develop and pupate into the adult beetle. As pupation starts, the larvae move out of the rotten wood and into the soil. Stag beetles pupate in early autumn, it only takes them a couple of weeks, but they then spend the winter underground as a beetle, only emerging in May to June.  Despite taking up to six years to reach adulthood, once the stag beetle emerges from underground, it only lives for a couple of months, its sole purpose to mate!

Stag beetles can grow up to 75mm long, and I can certainly vouch for them being big! The males, as the first photograph shows, have large antler-like jaws (mandibles). With only a few months in which to live and mate, the male stag beetle fiercely protects his territory and uses these jaws to fight off other males. This is the sole purpose of these jaws, they are not used to bite you, nor are they used to kill prey. In fact stag beetles don’t really feed for the few months that they are above ground, living instead off the fat stores they built up whilst underground.

Female Stag beetle, Lucanus cervus, le Lucane cerf-volant

Female stag beetles are slightly smaller than the male and as this second photograph shows, they do not have large mandibles like the males. Having mated, the female will make her way back to the ground from which she emerged, will bury herself back in the soil, lay her eggs and die.

Stag beetles are one of Europe’s largest beetles. They can be found throughout France mainly near the forests and woods they need to sustain them as larvae. In the UK they are less common, and can be found mainly in the South of the country.

On many an evening here in France, we have sat in the garden and have heard a stag beetle flying by. It’s an unmistakable sound and sight. Being so large they make quite a noise, and they really aren’t the most elegant of flyers; almost crashing to the ground rather than performing an elegant landing manoeuvre. Picture a tank flying, and you’ll have the right sort of image! Although female stag beetles can fly, they spend most of their time on the ground, so it is more likely than not to be a male you see thundering by!

Cats and magpies are stag beetles greatest predators. Luckily, the other night, I spotted two of our wild cats acting suspiciously in my strawberry patch. Upon investigation I saw that they were playing with the female stag beetle in the photograph. I shooed them away, and she managed to gain up the strength to fly away to safety.

Between now and August stag beetles will be active, finding new mates so their cycle can begin all over again. Keep an eye out for them, and if you see any I’d love to know, so please do leave your comments in the box below

A bientôt

Katherine x



'Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)' have 10 comments

  1. July 10, 2016 @ 11:27 am Vanessa

    I found a female stage beetle writhing around on her back on the kitchen floor recently, so I carefully put her outside. We have seen a few of them zooming about in the dusk in June, but it was in 2003, when it was so terribly hot, that we saw them most often. The conditions obviously favoured them. That they can get off the ground at all seems a minor miracle!


    • July 12, 2016 @ 12:39 pm Katherine

      I love them, I think they look so funny when they’re flying! Now the weather is hotter there have been quite a few crashing by in the evenings!


  2. July 10, 2016 @ 7:40 pm Cal at Family Makes

    Wow great photos and really interesting facts, thank you Katherine. #AllAboutFrance


    • July 12, 2016 @ 12:39 pm Katherine

      Thank you for popping across for a read x


  3. July 31, 2016 @ 7:31 am Phoebe

    We get plenty of these in the south. What a peculiar life they lead…seems rather pointless really but I’m sure it’s not! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance


    • July 31, 2016 @ 2:03 pm Katherine

      We’ve had lots this year, I wonder if the mild winter we had here has helped them. It does seem a rather sad existence!


  4. June 21, 2017 @ 11:12 am Stephen Branley

    I came across a male early this morning in Bagnères-de-Biggore. It was between 8 and 8.5cm. Lovely blogg btw… Stephen 😀


    • June 23, 2017 @ 12:34 pm Katherine

      I’ve seen a few flying around lately, but not managed to get any photos this year yet. Glad you like my blog 🙂


  5. June 20, 2019 @ 8:34 pm Morgana

    I’m a few years late to this post, but we just bought a house in the Rhône-Alpes region of France and have a male stag beetle clinging to the side of our house. We have many trees just behind the house. I think we saw him flying by last night. Your post was so informative! Coming from GA in the USA, I’m no stranger to large beetles, but my French husband was amazed by this guy!


  6. June 24, 2019 @ 3:59 pm bernard crosland

    20 June 2019.Saw a massive male sitting on the trunk of a pot grown olive tree outside a restaurant in the centre of bayeux.He was very alert and lifted his antlers aggressively towards me as I got closer.He sat for 3 hours as we ate our meal and didn’t appear in a proactive mating mood.It was Sunday, however!
    Kind regards
    Bernie C.


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