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Special Areas of Conservation

1083 Stag beetle Lucanus cervus

Invertebrate species: arthropods

Description and ecological characteristics

The stag beetle Lucanus cervus is the UK’s largest terrestrial beetle, and amongst the most spectacular, reaching 7 cm in length. Larvae develop in decaying tree stumps and fallen timber of broad-leaved trees in contact with the ground, especially of apple Malus spp., elm Ulmus spp., lime Tilia spp., beech Fagus sylvatica and oak Quercus spp. Such timber is an essential feature for conservation of structure and function of the habitat for this species. Development takes around 3-4 years. Adults are active on warm evenings, but probably only the males fly regularly and come readily to lights. Adults have been recorded from May to September or even October, though they are most abundant in early summer.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with species 1083 Lucanus cervus. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

Lucanus cervus is included in the Red Data lists of a number of countries, although it is said to be widespread and locally abundant in southern France and the Iberian peninsula.

UK status and distribution

In the UK Lucanus cervus is largely restricted to south and south-east England, occurring in a broad area south-east of a line extending from southern Suffolk, through Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire to Dorset, with a particular concentration around the London Basin, and with outlying populations in the West Country, south Wales, and Worcestershire/Gloucestershire border area. Although it is relatively common in some of the areas, it is listed as Nationally Scarce Category B (Hyman & Parsons 1992), which means that it is likely to occur in 100 or fewer 10x10 km national grid squares. In midland and northern England and Wales the stag beetle is rare or extinct.

View UK distribution of this species.

Site selection rationale

Sites have been selected to provide representation from the main population centres in southern England. The selected sites all support apparently viable populations and have features that make them particularly favourable for the long-term survival and reproduction of this species. The sites selected include the larger areas of semi-natural forested habitat known to hold viable populations of the species. In much of its range in southern England it is largely found in suburban domestic gardens rather than natural woodland, which does not make SAC designation practicable. Wider countryside measures, including Biodiversity Action Plans and forestry practice guidance, and locally and nationally targeted publicity to enhance the species’ profile with gardeners additionally contribute to conservation of this species.

Site accounts

  • Epping Forest Essex, Outer London
    Epping Forest is a large woodland area in which records of stag beetle Lucanus cervus are widespread and frequent; the site straddles the Essex and east London population centres. Epping Forest is a very important site for fauna associated with decaying timber, and supports many Red Data Book and Nationally Scarce invertebrate species.
  • Richmond Park Outer London
    Richmond Park has a large number of ancient trees with decaying timber. It is at the heart of the south London centre of distribution for stag beetle Lucanus cervus, and is a site of national importance for the conservation of the fauna of invertebrates associated with the decaying timber of ancient trees.
  • The New Forest Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
    The New Forest represents stag beetle Lucanus cervus in its Hampshire/Sussex population centre, and is a major stronghold for the species in the UK. The forest is one of the most important sites in the UK for fauna associated with rotting wood, and was identified as of potential international importance for its saproxylic invertebrate fauna by the Council of Europe (Speight 1989).
  • Wimbledon Common Outer London
    Wimbledon Common has a large number of old trees and much fallen decaying timber. It is at the heart of the south London centre of distribution for stag beetle Lucanus cervus, and a relatively large number of records were received from this site during a recent nationwide survey for the species (Percy et al. 2000). The site supports a number of other scarce invertebrate species associated with decaying timber.

SACs where this Annex II species is a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.

Please note that the map shows sites where the presence of a feature is classed as ‘grade d’, but these sites are not listed. This is because ‘grade d’ indicates a non-significant presence.