UK: Lesser Stag Beetle

2022 July 3

Sandy, Sam, and Rosie all went to the UK from June 18 to June 30, 2022 to walk the Cotswolds. Sandy’s D&D buddy, Ben Nikula[1], lives in London, so they stopped by to visit and he showed them around. While they were visiting the Shepperton Locks[2], they found this large black beetle, which they photographed with their cell phone cameras:

This is a big, distinctive beetle, so I was able to find out what it was pretty quickly. It’s a Lesser Stag Beetle, Dorcus parallellapipidus[3], which are evidently more common around London than in the countryside.

Unlike some other stag beetle species, the male Lesser Stag Beetle is not dramatically larger or more horribly beweaponed than the female. The main indication that this one is a male is that his head is about as wide as his body, and his mandibles have two prongs sticking up in the middle.

The larvae of these beetles feed on rotting wood, taking a couple of years to mature. Since there is just as much rotting wood around cities as outside of them, they can apparently do OK in urban environments.

A bit unusually, the adult Lesser Stag Beetles[4] live quite a long time. Most species of beetle mature, maybe eat a bit, mate, and die within a few weeks or at most months. Apparently this particular species can sometimes live as adults through the winter, and might actually live for up to two years as recognizable beetles (as opposed to white grubs). They would probably make OK pets, as long as you don’t mind them digging into the ground and hiding a lot of the time.

[1] Hi, Ben!

[2] The Shepperton Locks are boat locks on the Thames, used to get around areas that used to be waterfalls, rapids, or excessively fast currents. I gather they were originally built for barging freight up and down the river, but are mostly used for recreational boats these days.

Don’t go fishing and swimming in them, though.

[3] As near as I can tell, the species name Dorcas parallellapipidus basically translates to “Rectangular Gazelle”. OK, then.

[4] As you might guess, if this is a “lesser stag beetle” there must be a regular “stag beetle”. And there is. The Stag Beetle, Lucanus cervus, is almost twice as big, and the males have horrifyingly massive, antlerlike mandibles. Still, even the “lesser” beetles are still pretty enormous as beetles go.

2 Responses
  1. July 16, 2022

    An impressive fellow. 2 years and a pet, eh? Well, at least it comes with a ready-made name. Dorcus.

    As for D&D, it amazes me that people are back to playing it in this day and age of computer games. I played back in the first days, when we used the original three books from Gary Gygax and TSR.

  2. July 17, 2022

    These days, there is the option for D&D being a lot more computer-based than it used to be. My wife’s group uses the Roll-20 site, which provides maps and game-management tools, and also makes it simple for people to participate remotely. Which is why one of the people in her group is in the UK, and I think only one of the members of the group is even here in the same town as us anymore.

Comments are closed.