The stag beetle has always fascinated mankind. Their giant antler-like mandibles that are used for wrestling with other males demonstrate strength. The ancient Romans used their heads as amulets and the old Germans considered these beetles as the creatures of the god Thor. Today lucanus cervus is threatened.
Until the 19th century the stag beetle occurred widely and frequently across Middle Europe. Today we can only record single appearances. The stag beetle is red listed in many European countries like Spain, Sweden, Russia, Poland and Ukraine. In Denmark and Latvia the former indigenous species is already extinct. In Germany, the stag beetle is listed in category 2: endangered. Their decline is not caused by their popularity among collectors but rather by decreasing habitats.
It takes them about 5 years to grow into adulthood. As grubs they mainly need old oaks and deadwood. But our woods show the signs of forestry use, so that these beetles have difficulties finding old trees, deadwoods or stumps for their egg deposition. Growing coniferous woodlands where oak forests used to be, clearing old trees and deadwoods as well as climate change reduce their habitats.
The EU Habitats Directive guarantees that their living environments cannot be destroyed. However, it does not mean they should remain untouched:
Around the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, there are surprisingly huge forest areas, one of many residents was the stag beetle. In 2005 parts of these woods needed to be cleared for building the aeroplane hangar for the A380.
To rescue the stag beetles they decided to conduct a remarkable project. More than 50 oak stumps that were considered to be the habitat of stag beetle grubs were taken out and dug in at another place. This was a huge logistic task. But its success can only be judged a few years later on.
You can help to conserve this impressive beetle! To ensure their survival many national and local environmental organisations invite people to report the sighting of stag beetles as well as their grubs and puppets. This helps conversationists to keep track of their development and react to it.
Just keep in mind: If you see a stag beetle leave it in its environment and please do not capture it. If you find one in a pond or water barrel, or even on its back on the path, take it and put the little fellow on leaves or an oak. They can survive a few days in the water, so, even if they seem dead they might still be able to recover.