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Help save London’s stunning stag beetles

Friday 20th May 2016

Stag beetle by Neil PhillipsStag beetle by Neil Phillips

At the start of the stag beetle season London Wildlife Trust is asking Londoners to report sightings of this globally-endangered species.

To help the conservation of the stag beetle, Londoners are being asked to report any sightings via the Trust's website...

The stag beetle is Britain’s largest land beetle, almost 8cm in length, and is easily recognised by the male’s distinctive antler-shaped jaws. Although the male beetles look fearsome they are harmless to us. They use their massive jaws to wrestle with other males when looking for a mate. 

Despite stag beetles being in steep decline across Europe, London remains a hotspot and the Trust is asking the public to report their sightings, to help researchers map their whereabouts and numbers.

Stag beetles have been recorded in most London boroughs, but are more common in south and west London, from Bexley, Lewisham and Southwark to Wimbledon, Richmond and Uxbridge. Three sites – Epping Forest, Richmond Park, and Wimbledon and Putney Commons – are European Special Areas for Conservation for stag beetle.

Researchers still don’t know why there have been relatively fewer sightings across north and east London, which is why people’s sightings are so important.

The stag beetle season

May is the start of the ‘stag beetle season’, which lasts until late July, although a cold spring can delay emergence. The males fly clumsily with a faint clattering whirr, and are most likely to be seen on sultry summer evenings an hour or two before dusk. The females lack the males’ antlers and tend to stick to the ground, waiting for the males to come to them. Stag beetles spend most of their lives as larvae (grubs) within dead wood such as tree stumps and logs, where they spend 4-7 years slowly growing in size.

The decline in stag beetle numbers is attributed to the tidying up of parks, gardens and greenspaces and the removal of tree stumps and dead wood. Without dead wood the beetles have nowhere for their larvae to grow. The beetles play an important role in the cycle of decay; eating and breaking down dead wood so that it nourishes the soil. Stag beetles may be inadvertently destroyed in the mistaken belief they are pests, and in urban areas traffic, feet, cats and other predators can also have a negative impact.

In March 2016 Seb Dance MEP became a champion of the stag beetle as part of the Species Champion initiative, promoting the conservation of species of European importance, in partnership with London Wildlife Trust, RSPB, and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

Report your stag beetle sightings

To help the conservation of the stag beetle, Londoners are being asked to report any sightings via the capital’s environmental records centre; Greenspace Information for Greater London CIC (GiGL). If you think you’ve seen a stag beetle, or the related lesser stag beetle, the Trust urges you to visit their website at www.wildlondon.org.uk/stag-beetle-survey

Stag beetle fans can also follow stag beetle Sam at www.twitter.com/stagbeetlesam

More information on stag beetles

Visit the stag beetle web page or contact James Cracknell, communications officer at London Wildlife Trust on 020 7803 4293 or press@wildlondon.org.uk. The Trust has also published guidance on conserving stag beetles in gardens.

Stag beetle by Margaret HollandStag beetle on birch logLesser stag beetle by Margaret Holland