Sunday, 27 March 2016

Look out for stag beetles in Mayow Park from May to July

With summer approaching, I am keeping an eye out to protect stag beetles and their larvae in Mayow Park. In May, June and July stag beetles will start to emerge from decaying wood under the ground where they have been tunnelling through as larvae.

Mayow Park has been a hotspot for these magnificent creatures but numbers have declined in recent years through a number of factors including damage to their habitat, being dug up by predators, caught by cats and crushed by cars on our roads. They are clumsy flyers and end up falling to the ground. 
Male stag beetle (lucanus cervus) from London Wildlife Trust
London wildlife Trust has an advice note about stag beetles (lucanus cervus)

These creatures are detrivores, eating their way through decaying wood and helping to create new soil. The larvae bore through decaying wood  underground for up to seven years before changing into the stag beetles that we all recognise. You can tell them from similar looking larvae: lesser stag beetle larvae feed on decaying wood above ground and cockchafer larvae live on living roots.

The PTES charity has produced an ID guide to different, but similar-looking larvae

stag beetle larvae in their characteristic curled pose
The female stag beetle looks similar to the lesser stag beetle (dorcus  parallelipipedus) as they both have pincer-like jaws that can nip your finger. Significantly it is all black where lucanus cervas is a dark-brown/ black.  Dorcus is far more widespread and can be found across England and Wales.
Stag beetles  are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are classified as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Here a summary of  information from London Wildlife Trust

 How to spot a stag beetle 
·         You are most likely to find a stag beetle near or on dead wood
·         It's between 5cm and 8cm long
·         It's got large antler shaped jaws
a)     The male's jaws are very large
b)    The female's jaws are smaller but more powerful
·         Adults emerge from the soil beneath logs or tree stumps from mid-May til late July
·         Males are often seen flying on sultry summer evenings an hour or two before dusk

So let's all be aware of these special invertebrates and help them to thrive once more in Mayow Park.

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