Make your garden a stag beetle haven

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Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is asking people to record sightings of stag beetles on six summer evenings, as part of an ongoing European study into the impressive, yet endangered beetles.

Volunteers will only need to walk 500m, six times between June and July on warm, summer evenings, counting and recording any stag beetles they see, be that on a dog walk, a jog, or popping to the shop.

Its hoped the research, along with a survey by the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network, will help protect Britain’s largest land beetle, which can reach up to 7.5cm in size.

Male stag beetle’s huge mandibles (antler-like jaws) making them easy to spot but despite their appearance, stag beetles are harmless if left alone.

From mid-to-late-May, the beetles are more likely to be seen as warmer evenings draw them above ground to find a mate and reproduce.

Laura Bower, Conservation Officer at PTES, explains: “Loss of habitat and lack of dead or decaying wood are just two of the reasons why stag beetles need our help.

“Stag beetles are completely reliant on dead wood (either partially or completely buried) and are part of the process of recycling nutrients back into the soil, making them a very important part of the ecosystem.

“They mainly live in Britain’s gardens, parks, woodland edges and traditional orchards, and were once widespread throughout Europe.

“We hope that by taking part in this European survey, PTES’ annual Great Stag Hunt, and by making gardens stag beetle friendly, the public can help reverse the decline of this iconic insect.”

The European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network, set up by the Research Institute for Nature and Forest and co-funded by PTES, is aiming to assess population levels across 13 European countries. To take part visit: www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org.

As well as taking part in the European survey, PTES wants members of the public to record any sightings directly to them via the Great Stag Hunt – an annual stag beetle survey PTES has been running for nearly 20 years.

Last year, over 6,107 records (of both larvae and adult beetles) were submitted to PTES via the Great Stag Hunt website: 925 larvae and 5,182 adult beetles. To record a sighting, visit: www.ptes.org/gsh, with a photo if possible to help conservationists at PTES verify the sighting.

On top of these two surveys, anyone with a garden can help by making their green spaces a stag beetle haven.

From creating a log pile, to leaving plenty of dead wood for stag beetles, there are lots of things gardeners can do to help.

Save our stag beetles: top tips for gardeners

1. Create a log pile: One of the major problems facing stag beetles is a lack of rotting wood to lay eggs in or near, and for larvae to feed on.

By creating a log pile (or a log pyramid, if you fancy a challenge!), you can provide stag beetles with habitat for the future.

Log piles are also great habitat for other invertebrates and they in turn provide food for hedgehogs and birds.

2. Leave dead wood in your garden: Leave old stumps and dead wood alone, as these provide the perfect habitat and also a food supply. If you want to make the stumps more attractive – try growing a climbing plant such as clematis up it.

3. Reduce dangers: Be vigilant when mowing your lawn and be alert for predators; try and scare away magpies and keep your own pets indoors during warm evenings when stag beetles are flying.

Also, make sure any open water has an exit point, and if you see a dead-looking beetle in water, please take it out – they often revive!

4. Record your sightings: Let PTES know where you’ve spotted a stag beetle via the Great Stag Hunt! Sightings are key to finding out where populations are thriving, in need of help, or non-existent.

Visit www.ptes.org/stagbeetles to find out more, including how to build a log pile or pyramid, ID guides so you know a stag when you see one, and to record your sightings. Visit www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org to take part in the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network survey.