Stag search


Wren Wildlife Group member Sybil Ritten needs help surveying Wanstead’s stag beetle population this summer

Would a walk on a balmy summer’s evening in our local area appeal to anyone? It appears that Bushwood, Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park have never had a survey for stag beetles (Lucanus cervus), despite there being areas which are suitable habitats for their breeding and despite them being found both within these areas and on the surrounding streets.

So, I am planning to do a transect survey this summer in Bushwood and wondered if anyone else would be interested in doing the same in this or an adjoining area, including Wanstead, Aldersbrook or Leytonstone.

Stag beetles are part of the Saproxylic group of beetles, so are found in areas where there is a supply of dead and decaying wood. After around six years as larvae, they pupate and emerge as adults to find mates from late May to early August. The males searching for females tend to migrate to surfaces of warmth, hence often being found on pavements and roads.

Briefly, the transect survey will entail choosing a 500-metre patch where you walk and record what you see six times during June and July at sunset. If possible, you should walk from west to east and it needs to be above 12ºC, with little or no wind, and dry. There seems to be a dearth of surveys within woodland and wilder green spaces, but if it is more convenient, a transect on streets or a local park is also acceptable. The time, date, temperature, humidity and wind speed are recorded and the amount of live and dead wood habitat is estimated for each walk. If you are lucky enough to come across any stag beetles (alive or dead), you can take a photograph to confirm your identification. The adult male is distinctive (pictured here), but the female bears a resemblance to the lesser stag beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus), which has a wider distribution but is matt black as opposed to a shinier, dark conker-brown colour.

Your survey can then be uploaded to the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), or if preferred, you can return forms to me so I may scan and upload them. It will be easier to retrieve the data as a group if we submit the collective data to one account, and I am willing to take on this role. The data is ultimately fed into the National Biodiversity Network and the European Stag Beetle Research Group. I hope to also encourage people to report any isolated findings through the PTES website. 

Apart from the PTES website, you may also find Maria Fremlin’s articles and papers a great resource. She has been studying the beetles for 20 years. Currently, she is looking at egg development in the stag beetle female, so would value it if anyone finds a dead female to dissect (open the abdominal sternites and take a photograph). Alternatively, if you can get them to me quickly, I am happy to perform the task!

To contact Sybil for more information, email bushwoodlucanus@outlook.com

For more information on the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, visit ptes.org

To read Maria Fremlin’s articles, visit wnstd.com/fremlin