These spectacular beetles can be found worldwide, mostly in woodlands, but there is one species in Texas that is found in sand dunes. In some places, such as England, the stag beetle is the largest native insect. There are over 900 species of beetle that could be called stag beetles. Most of these odd looking insects are brown or black but there are a few species, such as the Rainbow Stag Beetle in Australia, which are colorful enough to have been used in postage stamps.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Arthropoda
Class - Insecta
Order – Coleoptera
Suborder – Polyphaga
Superfamily - Scarabaeoidea
Family - Lucanidae
Common Names – Stag Beetle, Pinching Bug
Stag beetles are large for beetles and can range from 1-4 inches in length, although most are between 1-1.5. The name of the stag beetle comes from the elongated mandible found in the males, which they use to spar with rival males and display for females during mating season. These antler-like appendages can be as long as half of the beetle’s body but the size of the mandibles varies among the different types and can cause problems with movement in some species due to their excessive bulk.
Males fly, somewhat awkwardly, at dusk in search of females. Once they have mated, the females lay small eggs. The eggs, which hatch into larvae, are left in decaying wood to develop, which may take a year or more. At the end of their larval cycle, they build a large cocoon deep in the soil where they will pupate until they metamorphose into an adult.
Stag beetles, like most beetles, prefer to stay hidden most of the time. They remain under forest debris for the majority of their lives when they are not searching for a mate. Since birds, especially magpies, are among the beetle’s greatest predators, its habit of staying concealed greatly increases its chances of survival.
The oldest fossils found that resemble beetles are from the Lower Permian period, around 270 million years ago. Close to half of insect species are beetles, with over 400,000 described species.
Although they have a wide range of habitats, many species of stag beetle are considered threatened or near threatened, primarily due to habitat loss.
- Australian Beetles: Morphology, Classification and Keys (Australian Beetles Series) by John F. Lawrence and Adam Slipinski
- American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea by Ross H. Arnett JR, Michael C. Thomas, Paul E. Skelley, J. Howard Frank
- Beetles in Conservation by T. R. New