Backyard Buddies
Stag Beetles

Photo: Antisense

Stag Beetles

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There are over 1,200 species of these big-jawed beetles in the world, and maybe even more than 85 different species just in Australia, but even though there are lots of different types of Stag Beetle, many are facing a loss of habitat that is threatening their survival.

Stag Beetles love to live in damp woodland areas with lots of leaves and rotting wood on the ground, but unfortunately, these are also the kinds of areas that humans like to clear for houses, farming or to use for logging.

Male Stag Beetles are easy to recognise because they have a great big jaw, like a pincer. The females can be a little trickier to spot. Many types of Stag Beetle are brown or black, but there are also a few really beautiful species, like the Rainbow Stag Beetle, that are very colourful.

The Stag Beetle is a great friend to humans, playing a really important role in ridding forests and our gardens of rotting leaves, fruits and wood.

Baby Stag Beetles are plump, c-shaped, cream coloured grubs, like most of their scarab beetle relatives. But you can tell if the baby scarab you find is a Stag Beetle by looking at its lower back. If it has two dark, hard, oval-shaped pads on its back, it's most likely a Stag Beetle baby.

Adult Stag Beetles vary in size depending on their species. Some are just under a centimetre in length, others grow to around 6 cm long. You will most likely find them making a home for their babies in rotten logs and trees or underneath layers of moist leaves on the ground.

Stag Beetles' jaws can be big and imposing, but they are also really fascinating. They are not at all like human jaws that chew up and down, instead they move sideways. Even more interesting, their jaws are not used for chewing. In fact, most adult Stag Beetle species don't eat much - just a very rare treat of nectar, sap or young tree shoots. Many types of Stag Beetle don't eat anything at all once they hatch as adults.

So what are their big jaws for? Male Stag Beetles use them to wrestle with other male Stag Beetles, especially when a female is nearby or they have stepped into someone else's territory. It's how the beetle got its name; they use their jaws like a male Red Deer, or stag, uses its antlers to show off and fight.

Stag Beetles love:

But they don't like:

Be a Buddy to Stag Beetles

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Don't be surprised if Stag Beetles:

A few more Stag Beetle facts

Not all species of Stag Beetles are threatened, and there are some you can even keep as pets. If you are interested in a Stag Beetle pet, do not collect one from the wild; buy one from a reputable pet store and always check which species are protected first. Then you know you are not illegally buying a threatened species.

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”’s all connected, your backyard to the big backyard and everything in between – we can all do our bit to help out nature.“

John - National Parks Volunteer, SA

Photo: OEH