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The female stag beetle is more dangerous than the larger male

Posted in Insects, Nature, Wildlife on Friday, 28 February 2014

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This edited article about beetles first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 574 published on 13 January 1973.

Stag beetle,  picture, image, illustration

The female Stag Beetle by R B Davis

On a late summer evening in June when the sun is just about to set, a grotesque shape of an insect can be seen outlined against the red dusky sky, circling clumsily around an oak tree in the warm night air.

This is the male stag beetle with its formidable-looking horns that stick out from its head like a stag’s antlers.

As soon as the insect senses danger, it will stiffen and raise itself up in a threatening position, its antlers held out wide open ready to pounce on its attacker. But frightening though the stag beetle may look when it does this, it cannot really inflict much pain with its huge horns which are really overgrown jaws. Its enemy will only suffer a feeble nip from an attack by the male stag beetle, never a severe bite. In fact, sometimes two males may be found fighting each other but seldom seem to do each other any injury. The female of the species is far more deadly than the male. She has smaller jaws but these can cause quite serious wounds when she attacks an enemy. So the female stag beetle, though she is less lethal looking than the male, is a much more dangerous creature.

Stag beetles are found all over the world and are most common in tropical eastern countries.

They live mostly in thickly-wooded areas, especially where there are many oak trees. The grubs or larvae, which are white and fleshy, feed inside rotting tree trunks on decaying wood and usually take four years to grow into adult insects with tough, hard bodies. When at rest the large transparent wings are ingeniously folded and hidden under the stag beetle’s wing covers.

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