I have been aware for several years (thanks to Malcolm and Sally) that Kent is a key area in the UK for stag beetles, and that in a lot of the country they are extinct. However, I have no recollection of seeing one in my garden but I did find a lesser stag beetle the other day.
It had (un)fortunately fallen into a bucket in the garden and I found it alive the next morning. (Sadly a devil’s coachman-type beetle was not so fortunate). As I wasn’t quite sure what it was, I checked in a couple of books and on the internet and it appears that it is lesser stag beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus).
They can be up to 3 cm in length, whereas the larger, stag beetle is up to 7.5 cm long. They have a broad head and noticeable mandibles, however they can be distinguished from the larger male stag beetle by its comparatively smaller jaws and distinctively knobbed antennae. Malcolm also told me to check for an even black colour all over and ridges on the fore tibia. If it is not an even black colour I believe it could be confused with the female stag beetle (which has smaller mandibles than the male) and whose wing cases are brown.
Like its larger family member, lesser stag beetles need rotting wood, especially it its underground, for laying eggs and feeding their larvae, so old tree stumps, and roots provide them with the best habitat. I know that Malcolm has put old wood into the ground to mimic their favourite habitat.
I did read that they especially like the wood of apple, along with ash and common beech, so I hope my small apple trees are healthy, but if not at least they will provide shelter and food for these interesting species.
Here’s the photographic proof – good luck checking the fore tibia on my rather amateur photographs!
To read Malcolms earlier post and find out more about how important log piles and dead wood are in our gardens, see the link below.
To compare the size of mandibles in the lesser stag beetle (above) with stag beetle (below), just look at Sally’s photograph below!