The hunt is on to find and record one of Britain’s biggest beetles.
It is becoming rare to catch a glimpse of the formidable looking, but friendly stag beetle (Lucanus cervus). and sadly their numbers are dwindling.
This spring, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is asking the public to record any sightings of these iconic insects by taking part in their annual Great Stag Hunt.
The stag beetle seems even rarer in East Sussex with the 2015 survey recording just nine, compared to 596 in neighbouring Kent and a whopping 901 sightings in Hampshire.
Stag beetles emerge from mid-May onwards, and live in gardens, parks, woodland edges and traditional orchards.
The Trust says Stag beetles are prevalent throughout southern England and coastal areas of the south west, while they are less common in the north of England and the South Downs.
Stag beetles can reach up to 75mm in size, which makes them second largest of all UK beetles after the water beetle, but also easy to spot! For the majority of their life cycle, stag beetles remain underground as larvae, feeding on rotten wood.
They can remain as larvae for as long as 7 years, and once fully grown they build a large cocoon in the soil where they pupate before finally metamorphosing into their adult, more recognisable, form.
There are no set rules for the Great Stag Hunt, just simply record any sightings of stag beetles online at www.ptes.org/stagbeetles, which will help PTES’ wider conservation strategy.
Laura Bower, Conservation Officer at PTES says: “The Great Stag Hunt has involved thousands of people over the last 20 years.
“Now is the right time of year for people to start recording sightings of stag beetles, as they emerge from mid-May onwards. Gardens in particular are very important habitats, as stag beetles rely on decaying wood in contact with soil to feed on as larvae. Volunteers can help by retaining dead tree stumps or building a log pile in their gardens to ensure there is a good supply of dead wood for female stag beetles to lay their eggs in. We hope to see more volunteers joining this year’s Great Stag Hunt to help reverse their population decline.”
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