Stag Beetles (Lucanidae)

Stag beetles are a family of beetles known for their antler-like mandibles. Their common name refers to the horns of male deer, to which their mouthparts bear a close resemblance. There are around 1200 species of beetles in this family.

French zoologist Pierre André Latreille first described this family in 1804.

Common Beetles Belonging to this Family

  • Golden stag beetle (Lamprima aurata)
  • Lord Howe stag beetle (Lamprima insularis)
  • Rainbow stag beetle (Phalacrognathus muelleri)
  • Darwin’s beetle (Chiasognathus grantii)
  • Antelope beetle (Dorcus parallelus)
  • Lesser stag beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus)
  • Giraffe stag beetle (Prosopocoilus giraffa)
  • Fighting giant stag beetle (Hexarthrius parryi)
  • Reddish-brown stag beetle (Lucanus capreolus)
  • European stag beetle (Lucanus cervus)
  • Giant stag beetle (Dorcus titanus)
  • Miyama stag beetle (Lucanus maculifemoratus)
  • Cottonwood stag beetle (Lucanus mazama)
  • Rugose stag beetle (Sinodendron rugosum)

Scientific Classification

This family is further categorized into four subfamilies. Each subfamily has several tribes that contain assorted genera.

1. Aesalinae

Aesalini

  • Aesalus
  • Echinoaesalus
  • Lucanobium

Ceratognathini

  • Ceratognathus
  • Hilophyllus
  • Mitophyllus

Nicagini

  • Nicagus
  • Holloceratognathus

2. Lampriminae

  • Dendroblax
  • Homolamprima
  • Lamprima
  • Phalacrognathus
  • Streptocerus

3. Lucaninae

Aegini

  • Aegus

Allotopini

  • Allotopus
  • Mesotopus

Chiasognathini

  • Casignetus
  • Chiasognathus
  • Protognathinus
  • Sphaenognathus

Cladognathini

  • Aphanognathus
  • Capreolucanus
  • Cladophyllus
  • Eligmodontus
  • Gonometopus
  • Macrodorcas
  • Palaeognathus
  • Prismognathus
  • Prosopocoilus
  • Pseudorhaetus
  • Rhaetulus
  • Rhaetus
  • Tetrarthrius
  • Weinreichius

Colophonini

  • Colophon

Cyclommatini

  • Cyclommatus

Dendeziini

  • Dendezia
  • Oonotus
  • Xiphodontus

Dorcini

  • Bartolozziolucanus
  • Cantharolethrus
  • Cyclommatus
  • Dorcasoides
  • Dorcus
  • Homoderus
  • Leptinopterus
  • Prosopocoilus
  • Rhaetulus
  • Serrognathus
  • Pycnosiphorus
  • Sclerostomus

Figulini

  • Cardanus
  • Dinonigidius
  • Figulus
  • Ganelius
  • Nigidionus
  • Nigidius
  • Novonigidius
  • Penichrolucanus

Lissapterini

  • Bomansius
  • Dorculus
  • Geodorcus
  • Hoplogonus
  • Lissapterus
  • Lissotes
  • Paralissotes
  • Pseudodorcus

Lucanini

  • Hexarthrius
  • Lucanus
  • Pseudolucanus

Odontolabini

  • Calcodes
  • Neolucanus
  • Odontolabis

Platycerini

  • Platyceroides
  • Platyceropsis
  • Platycerus

Ryssonotini

  • Cacostomus
  • Ryssonotus

4. Syndesinae

Ceruchini

  • Ceruchus

Sinodendronini

  • Sinodendron

Syndesini

  • Psilodon
  • Syndesus

Physical Description and Identification

Adult

Size: 2 in (5 cm), though some are as long as 4.5 in (12 cm)

Color: Most beetles are black or brown.

Other Characteristic Features: A physical characteristic of these beetles that immediately catches one’s eye is a large pair of mandibles. The male beetle has larger ones used for fighting other males over food and mates. The females’ mandibles are smaller but more powerful than the males.

Due to the large size of the mandibles, which exceeds the entire body length of some species, the beetles will usually get about by flying.

Larva

The larvae are cream-colored, with a brown head. Females can be distinguished from males by the presence of the ovaries visible through their skin.

Pupa

When mature, the larvae undergo pupation inside a cell underground made of loose soil. The pupa slowly develops an orange tone as it begins to grow antlers, legs, and other body parts.

Egg

After mating, female stag beetles will lay an average of 24 eggs close to rotting or decaying wood.

Quick Facts

Lifespan 2-3 months
Distribution Most of Europe, particularly south England
Habitat Woodlands, forests, gardens
Predators Bats, some birds, rats and similar rodents
Seasons active May to August
Host Plants Primarily oak, but also beech, elm, hornbeam, and different types of fruit trees
Diet of adults Tree sap and nectar

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Despite their large pincers, the adults do not do a lot of damage to the wood of living trees and are not considered dangerous. The larva feeds on mostly dead and decaying wood, so the extent of the harm caused by them is minimal.

They have not been known to bite humans.

Did You Know

  • They are common pets in South Korea and Japan, alongside rhinoceros beetles.
  • Due to an old English superstition about these beetles being the devil’s imp sent to harm crops, they were often stoned on sight.
  • The biggest stag beetle in the world is the giraffe stag beetle, which can reach lengths of 12.3 cm.
  • While relatively common, their numbers have declined due to habitat loss and pollution.

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