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Saturday, 15 May 2010

Britain´s Largest Insect

The European stag beetle (Lucanus Cervus) is renowned as Britain’s largest terrestrial insect. Stag beetles can be found in southern and central Europe, and in Britain they are found in southern and southeast regions of England, where there are wooded parks, gardens and pasture woodland – as long as there is a good supply of rotten wood.
The male stag beetles are easily recognizable due to their long “antler” shaped mandibles. These guys may look frightening to some people, but they are entirely harmless. Their large mandibles are too weak to hurt you. Male stag beetles use their mandibles to fight other males. The females mandibles as not as big, but let me warn you that their mandibles can inflict a painful bite. The size of a male stag beetle can vary a lot, from approx. 3.5cm to 7.5cm in length, whereas the females are somewhat smaller; they can be as small as 2.3cm.
The stag beetle needs damp, rotting wood in order to complete their lifecycle. The larva lives within the rotten wood between 3 to 5 years before pupating. The adult beetle develops inside this pupal case, which remains concealed all throughout winter. The entirely formed adult beetle only emerges at the beginning of the flight season of the following year. However, the adults have a much shorter life than the larva, surviving only between the months of May and August, by the time wintry weather arrives, all the adult beetles have ceased.
Unfortunately, the stag beetle is now rare, mainly due to loss of suitable habitat. In addition to the loss of habitat, taking away of wood from woodland is also a problem, depriving the female beetles of the damp, rotting wood they need for laying their eggs. Changing in weather patterns has also an impact on the stag beetles. Humans are, unfortunately, a direct threat to these unique insects. These insects are attracted to warm surfaces like tarmac and pavements, making them defenseless to being squashed by traffic and feet. They are sometimes killed on purpose by people thinking that they are harmful. The stag beetle is one of the species chosen by the Government to be included in its Biodiversity Action Plan, in other words, it is being given special help to increase its numbers.

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