Stag Beetles

22 August, 2010

Rainbow Stag Beetle, <I>Phalacrognathus muelleri</I>
Rainbow Stag Beetle, Phalacrognathus muelleri
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: What are these beautiful beetles with huge jaws?

Answer: These beetles are commonly known as stag beetles and belong to the family Lucanidae, of which there are 85 species found in Australia, (with possibly more species still to be described).

Stag beetles lay their eggs in rotten wood with the larvae consuming the wood and the fungus associated with the wood. Suitable timber varies between species from wet rotten logs to moist dead standing timber. Adults of some species feed on nectar, young plant shoots and sap flows but most species are not known to feed as adults.

Males of some species have large mandibles which are used to battle other males for mating rights. Hence the common name of stag beetles in that they use their mandibles in a similar fashion to the way stags use their antlers. The species that is most commonly brought to the Museum by people is what is commonly known as the Golden-green Stag Beetle (Lamprima aurata). While some species in this family are fairly plain in colour, others such as the Rainbow Stag Beetle have spectacular colouration. There are also a number of threatened species of stag beetle in Australia.

Comments (7)

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Hendrik Hoogeveen 4 August, 2011 20:31
Dear Sir / Madam, I develop, along with Deborah Harvey from the UK and others, an educational project about stag beetles. For this project I am looking for other species worldwide. Could you help me with dried specimens from Australia? That would make us very happy! Our work is ideological and not commercial. I am in possession of a permit to possess dead protected animals in Holland and educational purposes. I look forward to your response. Many thanks in advance, Sincerely, Hendrik Hoogeveen De Steenkamp 94 3781VT Voorthuizen The Netherlands
Carole Slaymaker 17 May, 2014 21:36
Hi I livd in UK and at this very moment I have s golden green stag beetle in my garden Can you tell me if they are common in the UK many thanks
Discovery Centre 22 May, 2014 14:50
Hi Carole, good to hear you have stag beetles in the garden, they are beautiful insects. It is hard to say whether the ones you are seeing are common in the UK as there are many different species and there are species that occur in Australia and not in the UK and vice versa. If you have a digital camera it might be worth taking some good quality images and getting in touch with the British Museum. They will hopefully be able to give you lots of information about which species you have.
tim baulch 14 December, 2014 19:34
Hi. I recently found what I believe is a rainbow stag beetle in a stump on my property at Donavons near the Glenelg river on the vic SA border. I found 2 beetles brightly coloured metelic green to a purple changing in the light. As we have a old house and live next to pine plantation I am concerned they can damage our house. The house has a pine floor. Will they eat pine flooring?
Discovery Centre 16 December, 2014 10:58

Hello Tim - we checked with our Live Exhibits team, and they've prepared the following reply:

The beetles you found are Golden Stag Beetles Lamprima aurata, rather than Rainbow Stag Beetles Phalacrognathus muelleri, which occur in Queensland. These species lay their eggs into rotting wood and the larvae feed on the very soft white pulp, so none of your living trees or the timbers used around the house are in any danger. Males are iridescent green-yellow and females purple-red.

Deb woods 8 December, 2015 12:04
Hi, I found this beetle on the footpath. Is it ok to keep in an enclosure with some rotting wood and leaves? Which is the most common species found in Melbourne?
Discovery Centre 28 December, 2015 10:58
Hi Deb, our manager of Live Exhibits has said Golden Stag Beetles (Lamprima aurata) are commonly found in Melbourne during summer, particularly around flowering gum trees. The males have enlarged mandibles and the females tend to be a purple-red rather than the green-gold of the males. Eggs are laid in rotting wood and the larvae feed on the fungi growing on the wood, rather than the wood itself. The rotting stumps of fruit trees such as cherry and apple seem particularly attractive to females, and even a small stump may have 30-40 larvae feeding within it. Adults feed on nectar, fruit and other sweet liquids. ‘Coloured Stags’, as they are known, are rare around the world (most Stag Beetles are brown or black) and we are lucky in Melbourne that this is the most common species.
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Image Gallery

Male Stag Beetle, <I>Lamprima aurata</I> Stag Beetles mating Golden Green Stag Beetle, <I>Lamprima latreillei</I>

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