French name: le Lucane cerf-volant
Whilst on a local walk a couple of weeks ago we stumbled across this male stag beetle.
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 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