Since ancient times, the stag beetle has been of genuine interest to people of different professions and ages. This unusual insect has more than once become the main character on various monuments, postage stamps, and paintings by famous artists. Such popularity is due to the unusual appearance of the beetle, its interesting lifestyle and habits.
Origin of the species and description
Stag beetles belong to the Coleoptera order, the stag family. The name of their genus in Latin sounds like Lucanus. These insects are famous for their unusual external data, large dimensions. In nature, there were individuals whose length reached ninety millimeters! Stag beetles are also called stag beetles. This is due to their large growths located on their heads. Outwardly, they resemble deer antlers.
Interesting fact: The stag beetle is considered the largest beetle in all of Europe. On the territory of Russia, only the relic lumberjack surpasses it in size.
The Latin name Lucanus literally translates as “dwelling in Lucania.” This is a small area in northern Etruria. It was there that the stag beetle first gained great popularity. The inhabitants of Lucania considered these insects to be sacred, they made amulets out of them. Over the years, the name Lucanus has been assigned to a whole genus of stags. For the first time, these beetles were called deer in 1758. This name was given to them by Carl Linnaeus. Today, both names are considered correct.
Video: Horned beetle
At the moment, the genus of insects has more than fifty species. Beetles are distributed almost throughout the globe. It is simply impossible not to recognize the stag beetle among the variety of other beetles. They are large, have a flattened body and enlarged mandibles (only in males, in females they are less pronounced).
Appearance and features
The stag beetle has extraordinary external characteristics:
- The average body size of males is from forty-five to eighty-five millimeters, females – from twenty-five to fifty-seven. The spread of values is due to the fact that in different places the beetles grow to different sizes;
- Large, slightly flattened body. On the body there are dark brown, brown-black or reddish-brown elytra. They completely cover the belly. The bottom of the body is painted black;
- The sex of this insect can be determined by the size of the mandibles. In males, the horns are well developed, in length they can even be longer than the entire body. Males have two teeth on each mandible. Females cannot boast of such a “decoration”. They have very small mandibles;
- The head of the beetles is wide, the antennae are cranked. In females, the eyes are solid, while in males they are separated by protrusions;
- In nature, adult stags with a bright body color are found. They are orange and green. Their bodies have a beautiful golden, metallic sheen.
An interesting fact: The color of the horns during the life of beetles is bright brown with a pronounced red tint. But after death, the mandibles change. They become darker, dark brown.
Where does the stag beetle live?
Rogach lives in Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Asia Minor, Europe, a small number is found in North Africa. Also, the natural range includes such countries as Moldova, Georgia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine. In Europe, beetles settled in the territory from Sweden to the Balkan Peninsula. Previously, stags lived in Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark and even Great Britain. But today they are recognized as an extinct species on the territory of these countries.
Interesting fact: In Russia, the stag beetle is one of three species of the genus Lucanus. In Belarus, Ukraine, this species is the only representative.
Stag beetles choose a temperate climate for living. Too hot or too cold climatic zones do not suit them. In order for a new colony of stag beetles to appear on the territory, certain conditions are necessary – the presence of a large number of fallen trees, stumps. It is in them that the insect lays its larvae.
It is difficult to name specific tree species in which stags prefer to settle. Beetles, their offspring were often found near various stumps, fallen tropical trees. For these animals, the decisive factor is rather another point – the age of the wood. They prefer to live in a tree that is in deep decay.
What does the stag beetle eat?
The daily menu of stag beetles is not varied. The diet of such an animal directly depends on its habitat, stage of development. The larvae mainly eat rotten bark and wood. They have an impressive size, excellent appetite. Even one larva is able to gnaw through a whole system of passages in the bark of a tree in a short time. It is at the stage of the larva that the main volume of food is absorbed.
Adult individuals need vegetable juice to maintain vitality. They drink the juice of trees, green spaces, shrubs. This juice is quite nutritious. For its extraction, beetles sometimes have to work hard – gnaw out the bark. This is mainly done by female stags. If there is no juice nearby, the stag beetle can feast on sweet nectar, plain water (morning dew).
An interesting fact: For the source of tree sap, stags often have real “knightly” fights. Males fight fiercely with powerful horns. The winner gets a fresh, nutritious juice.
A typical meal for stag beetles takes several hours. They need a lot of juice to maintain vitality. Recently, such animals are often caught for home keeping. At home, the diet of the stag is: fresh grass, sugar syrup, juice, honey.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
As noted above, the size of stag beetles depends on the habitat. But not only the size. The lifestyle of an insect is also directly dependent on the region in which it lives. In most of the natural range, the flight of the beetle begins in May and ends in July. At the same time, in the north, the main activity occurs at night. During the day, bugs prefer to hide in trees. In the southern part, everything is exactly the opposite – during the day the beetles are active, at night they rest.
Adult males have a greater propensity to fly. Females fly much less often, out of necessity. During the day, the stags overcome short distances through the air – from one tree to another. However, they can move with the help of wings for three kilometers. This type of insect is distinguished by the fact that they cannot always take off from a horizontal surface. This is due to the large size of the horns. To take to the air, these bugs deliberately fall from tree branches.
The character of this insect is warlike. The stag often attacks other animals, enters into a fight with representatives of its own kind. The stag can also use its strength against predators, people. However, there is always an explanation for such aggressive behavior. The beetle can attack people, predators, and other insects only for the purpose of self-defense. With beetles of its own species, the stag beetle fights for some goal – a female, a source of food.
Interesting fact: Fighting for tree sap or a female, stag beetles do not cause fatal injuries to each other. The winner of the battle is the one who was able to knock his opponent to the ground.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The process of procreation the stag beetle has some features:
- The breeding season lasts two months: from May to June. Male individuals are looking for females at dusk, to attract the chosen “lady” I can defiantly dance, show off my big horns;
- Direct mating in these insects takes several hours. The whole process usually takes place on a tree;
- A male stag can lay up to twenty eggs at a time. Previously, scientists greatly overestimated the capabilities of the animal, considering that the female lays about a hundred eggs;
- Eggs develop over several weeks – from three to six. They have a characteristic yellow color, oval shape. After they are reborn into larvae;
- The larval stage is the longest. It takes over five years. During this time, the larva can eat a huge amount of wood, as it has a good appetite. Larval development usually occurs in the underground part of the tree or in stumps;
- Females lay their eggs preferably in oaks. However, oaks cannot be called the only suitable type of tree. The larvae were found in various stumps and trunks. They feed on rotten wood, help natural materials decompose faster;
- The larvae pupa in October.
Natural enemies of stag beetles
The stag beetle is an easy prey for large birds. They are hunted by crows, gray crows, black crows, magpies, owls, hobbies, rollers, and many other representatives of corvids. Birds prefer to feast on only the belly of the animal. They throw away the rest of the beetle. However, many scientists claim that there are birds that swallow stags whole. For example, owls. Every year, a huge number of beetles die from the paws of birds. In forests where such insects live in large numbers, you can easily find the remains of horns, torsos, heads.
Also, jays, woodpeckers, rooks and even bats will not refuse to dine with stags. Less often, such insects become victims of domestic cats, ants, ticks. Wasps from the genus Scoliia can be attributed to natural enemies. Large representatives of this genus attack exclusively larvae. They paralyze them, lay their eggs in the body. The hatched wasp larvae then eat the larva of the stag beetle. Wasp larvae begin their meal with the most important and nutritious vital organs.
You can also call a person a natural enemy of the stag beetle. People capture adults for their own fun, profit, or just out of curiosity. Many try to keep them at home, which leads to the death of animals. Others sell beetles to collectors for huge sums.
Population and species status
To date, the population of beetles throughout the natural habitat is gradually declining. Horn beetles began to meet even in oak forests very rarely, locally. Scientists suggest that in the near future this insect will face complete extinction. These beetles support a high number only in certain territories. For example, in Kharkov, Chernihiv regions of Ukraine. There, from time to time, outbreaks of an increase in the number of these animals are still observed.
What is it that affects the population of this species?
The following factors influence the decrease in the number of stags:
- Environmental. The widespread deterioration of the ecological situation, pollution of soil, water, air – all this negatively affects the survival of animals in the wild;
- Irresponsible human activity in the forests. Stag beetles settle near forests, where there are stumps, fallen tree trunks. Uncontrolled logging, destruction of wood – all this leads to a decrease in the number of stags. Beetles simply have nowhere to lay their eggs;
- Illegal capture of insects by people. The stag beetle is a tasty morsel for any collector. On the market, the cost of such an insect sometimes exceeds one thousand dollars, depending on the size, color of the animal.
Protection of stag beetles
Due to the rapid decline in the number of stag beetles, they were listed in the Red Book of many states. Back in 1982, this insect was declared endangered in most areas of its natural habitat. So, today this animal is protected in Denmark, Poland, Germany, Estonia, Moldova, Ukraine, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Russia. In some areas, the species is recognized as completely extinct.
Interesting fact: The stag beetle is constantly supported by various actions, publications in scientific and animal journals. So, in 2012, this beetle was recognized as the insect of the year in Germany, Austria, Switzerland.
Today, stag beetles are carefully protected by law. Their capture, sale, domestication is strictly prohibited. Scientists around the world create special monitoring groups. They study the life, population and distribution of stag beetles. On the territory of Russia, special conditions were created for the reproduction and habitat of stags in nature reserves.
Also, work is being carried out on the territory of the natural range to preserve biotopes. In the forests, the felling of old trees and the destruction of stumps are strictly limited. Explanatory conversations are held with youth and children in schools. During which teachers talk about the need to protect and protect such beetles, that it is impossible to catch and kill them for fun.
The stag beetle is a bright, large representative of the genus Lucanus. This stunning insect has a memorable appearance, interesting habits and great value. The beetle brings many benefits to mankind, helping wood and other natural materials to decompose more quickly. For this property, he is also called the orderly of the forest. Unfortunately, the number of beetles is steadily declining to this day. This requires urgent action to be taken to conserve such a valuable species of large beetles.