In this article, we talk about giant stag beetles and explain everything you need to know in order to keep them as pets in your home.
There are around 1,200 stag beetle species in the world. Most of these beetles are huge, but there are a few that stand out in terms of size and appearance.
The giant stag beetle is one of these.
These beetles are rare to come across and are kept as unusual pets by some people. You will be surprised to know that these beetles are highly expensive to buy.
But why is this, and how should you go about getting some for yourself? How can you take care of a giant stag beetle? Let us know more about this insect through this article.
What Are They?
Giant stag beetles (Lucanus Elaphus) are one of the biggest beetles in the US. It is the also biggest insect in the world that relies on dead wood for survival.
Like all other stag beetles, they, too, have huge mandibles that look like the antlers of a stag. Including these huge mandibles, a giant stag beetle can grow up to 2.5 inches in length.
Adult males have larger bodies and are often seen wrestling with mandibles to impress the females and gain mating rights.
The females prefer to lay eggs in cracks of rotting wood. The giant stag beetle larvae are C-shaped and spend almost a year inside decaying wood to reach maturity.
Where Do They Live?
Since the larvae hugely rely on dead and rotting wood to fulfill their diets, you will mostly spot the adult beetles near such logs in deciduous forests
This is especially true during the early stages of summer. Also, during nighttime, you might see them flying toward different light sources.
What Do They Eat?
Adult giant stag beetles usually do not spend a lot of time eating. They rely on the fat storage developed during the larval stage to survive.
In some instances, adult stag beetles might consume aphid honeydew, rotting fruits, and plant juices.
The larvae feed on the white-rot obtained from dead tree logs.
Do Giant Stag Beetles Bite?
Like other stag beetle species, giant stag beetles are not aggressive toward humans. But you must be careful around them.
These beetles have huge mandibles and strong chewing muscles. If you are touching these beetles, always wear safety gloves to avoid bites.
What Happens if You Get Bit by a Stag Beetle?
If you get bit by a stag beetle, you will experience a good amount of pain.
You might also experience redness, irritation, and swelling near the wound. But thankfully, the effect only lasts for a few minutes.
You will probably not need any medical attention, and the swelling should go away fairly quickly as well.
Are They Poisonous?
A giant stag beetle bite can be painful, but it won’t have any fatal effects as they are not venomous.
In rare cases, the bites can trigger allergic reactions in the body. If that happens, seek medical help immediately.
Life Cycle of The Giant Stag Beetle
The adult males usually flaunt their mandibles to impress the female to earn mating rights.
Sometimes when more than one beetle is interested in the same female, they wrestle with each other to win mating rights.
After mating, the female beetles lay eggs near some dead wooden log or tree. As soon as the larvae come out, it starts feeding on the decaying log.
The adults live for a shorter period of time, and they spend most of it brawling and mating.
Giant Stag Beetles As Pets
Giant stag beetles are fascinating to watch and can be kept as pets. But unfortunately, these insects are rare.
You might have to search in several pet stores to find one that sells them. Getting a giant stag beetle is only the start. Here is a step-by-step guide to taking care of these insects as pets.
How To Keep
Once you get the pet insect, you must find a suitable tank for it to stay in.
Ensure the tank spacious enough for the insect to move around. A fully grown adult male beetle can be easily accommodated in a 1-gallon tank.
Also, avoid keeping more than one male in the same tank, as they might fight repeatedly.
Add a thick layer of loose soil or hay to the bottom, as the females like to lay eggs in such spots.
Since these beetles can fly, ensure that the tank is closed from the top and is well-ventilated.
What To Feed
Sliced fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, and pineapples are the best thing to feed your pet stag beetles.
Instead of directly dropping them on the tank, place them on a sauce plate. This will help you keep the tank clean and easily remove the leftovers.
If the leftovers are kept idle for a long, mold will start growing on them. To avoid such problems, you can feed beetle jelly to the insects. It s highly nutritious and doesn’t rot easily.
Let your beetles mate only if you intend to breed them. Mating reduces the life span of stag beetles; therefore, you must be sure before taking the step.
Let the beetles mate at a young age as the fertility is higher during that time.
After mating, put the female in a separate tank with one or two rotting logs and fill it with flake soil. Remove the tree bark from the logs to make it easy for the beetles to chew through.
Taking Care of the Little Ones
The key to handling grubs properly is to provide the amount of moisture to them. Moisture is one of the essential ingredients for the survival of larvae.
You must balance the moisture content as too much of it will hinder the breathing of the larvae and will kill them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find a giant stag beetle?
You can find giant stag beetles near in the deciduous forest near piles of dead and decaying wood.
These beetles can be seen during the months of early summer. In most cases, you will find the adults mating or wrestling to earn mating rights.
How much is a giant stag beetle worth?
Since giant stag beetles are rare and fascinating to look at, people want to keep them as pets.
These insects are very expensive.
Recently a man from Japan sold a giant stag beetle for $89,000. If the beetle is huge and unique, people will pay more.
Can you touch a stag beetle?
Yes, you can touch a stag beetle, but you must be careful while doing so. Since they have huge mandibles and strong chewing parts, they can deliver painful bites.
Therefore it is wise to wear a pair of safety gloves before picking or touching them.
Is it illegal to keep a stag beetle?
Stag beetles legally can’t be sold in the UK. Many species of these insects are rare, which is why constant efforts are made to protect them from humans.
They also fall in the category of ‘priority species in the UK according to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Even in the US, the regulations regarding owning and movement of these beetles are quite strict and they may need a license from the respective state.
Giant stag beetles are rare insects. Due to their huge build and appearance, they can make good pets.
But if you are interested in keeping them, it is crucial to pay special attention to them.
Use the tips and tricks mentioned above to keep them healthy and strong. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece.
Giant stage beetles are amazingly beautiful creatures. Their huge mandibles are a sight to behold.
Over the years, many of our readers have been mesmerized by their appearance and size.
Here is a small collection of their emails and photographs to help you understand what they look like and why bug lovers are enchanted by them.
Letter 1 – Giant Stag Beetle
I found this bug in my Marigolds on 6/30/08 in northern central Tennessee. I also believe I seen a very tiny bug just like this one within a foot or so at the same time. Although, it was virtually clear in color, I think it was a baby. Is this a Stag Beetle or something else ? Phillip Hi Phillip, What a beautiful male Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus. Immature Stag Beetles are grubs and look nothing like the adults.
Letter 2 – Giant Stag Beetle
?Giant stag beetle Dear Bugman, We are enclosing photos of what we think is a giant stag beetle. We found him this evening in our yard in Lexington, NC being knocked around by our neighbors cat. When we tried to get him into a container to bring him in for a photo, he reared his head up and used his pinchers to grab our stick. Will you please let us know if we are right. thank you, Daragh Conrad Hi Daragh, This is indeed a Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, and it looks like he didn’t fare so well in his encounter with the cat.
Letter 3 – Giant Stag Beetle
pet stag beetle I am a woodworking teacher at a middle school. This stag beetle has been on my garage wall for almost a week. As far as I can tell, he has moved only about 3 feet in either direction. What do you make of this?? I’ve gotten kind of used to him and I hope he is ok just hanging out on the brick wall. Juanita Daniell Woodworking and Technology Hi Juanita, It is so nice to know that woodworking is alive and well in middle school education in North Carolina. We really don’t have a theory on why this Giant Stag Beetle with “trophey antlers” has such limited mobility. He sure is a gorgeous specimen.
Letter 4 – Giant Stag Beetle
big black beetle bug ID Hi, On June 6th in the middle of the night, near Cookeville, TN, I found this beetle type bug outside a restaurant window. It was at least 2 inches long and looks to have big pinchers and a bit of a concave head (like a horns kinda), but I haven’t been able to locate it anywhere online so far… Any idea what it is? Thanks in advance! Christi Tipton Hi Christi, We saw your photo two days ago, but couldn’t post it as we were very late. Then we couldn’t locate it among all the new letters. Thankfully, we found it again. This is a gorgeous example of a male Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus. They are commonly called Stag Beetles due to the resemblance of the mandibles to the antlers of a stag.
Letter 5 – Giant Stag Beetle
Bug in Nashville Tennessee The keys are there to show the scale. What bug is this? Stacey Hi Stacey, We thought for a moment you were trying to teach this spectacular Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, how to drive.
Letter 6 – Giant Stag Beetle
“YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THIS!” – Stag Beetle in Illinois Hello and congratulations on such an informative website. We live in a wooded area with a small pond in South-Central Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis, MO. In June 2007, my husband encountered this enormous bug on a decorative wagon wheel while cutting grass. He ran into the house to get me and the kids saying, “YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THIS!” My husband grew up on a dairy farm and has seen lots of bugs in his day but never came across anything like this. At first we thought it was an escapee from the insect house at the zoo. After searching the internet, we came across your wonderful site and quickly identified it as a Stag Beetle. We’ve enjoyed watching bugs for a while now but it is one of the biggest we’ve ever seen – it measured 3 inches long. We were afraid to get too close so as not to get surprised. However, we did get close enough to see the dew on its back! Do they fly? Are they common? Any information on this elegant insect would be appreciated. Denise & John Illinois Hi Denise and John, Your Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, is a beautiful specimen. They do fly. According to BugGuide, they are more common in the southeast, and “There is some conservation concern about this species. The related Lucanus cervus , of Europe, is threatened.”
Letter 7 – Giant Stag Beetle
Red, possible rhino beetle of some sort. Sat, Jun 20, 2009 at 4:55 AM A friend that lives in Atlanta, GA found this bug above her apartment door, on June 19, 2009. I did a bit of searching, and it looks much more similar to a Rhino Beetle than any other I could quickly find. I’m not sure if any are native to this area or not though. Jenn Atlanta, GA Hi Jenn, This is the first image of a Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, we have received this year. Stag Beetles are only distantly related to Rhinoceros Beetles. BugGuide has this information posted: “Eggs are laid in crevices of moist, decaying wood. Larvae feed on decaying logs, stumps, where adults can be found in spring, early summer. (Presumably males battle there.) Larvae take one or more years to develop. Adults can be found at lights in early summer. Adults live two or more years, but one generation per year. Remarks There is some conservation concern about this species. The related Lucanus cervus , of Europe, is threatened. See: Staines, C. L. Distribution of Lucanus elaphus Linnaeus (sic) (Coleoptera: Lucanidae) in North America. The Coleopterists Bulletin, 2001, vol. 55(4): 397-404. “
Letter 8 – Bug of the Month July 2009: Giant Stag Beetle
Name that Beetle Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 6:11 PM I was at work and took a picture of this beetle on the wall. I have been looking on the internet and have not been able to identify it, yet. Any ideas? Chris Bullard Wilson, NC Hi Chris, The Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, might well be the most strikingly unusual of the wealth of North American Beetles. Your beetle is a male, and male Giant Stag Beetles use those formidable mandibles to compete for mates. Update: 30 June 2009 Since it is time to select a new Bug of the Month, and since there were two images of male Giant Stag Beetles submitted in late June, we thought this might mean there would be several more sightings in coming weeks. This was a very difficult decision as there are many worthy candidates for the Bug of the Month honors, but beetles and moths are probably our most common summer identification requests. The Giant Stag Beetle, according to BugGuide, may be in need of conservation. BugGuide also indicates: “Food Adults may feed on plant juices, rotting fruit (?), and aphid honeydew. Life Cycle Eggs are laid in crevices of moist, decaying wood. Larvae feed on decaying logs, stumps, where adults can be found in spring, early summer. (Presumably males battle there.) Larvae take one or more years to develop. Adults can be found at lights in early summer. Adults live two or more years, but one generation per year. ” Almost all sightings submitted to BugGuide have been in June, but there are some July sightings indicated as well.
Letter 9 – Giant Stag Beetle
Giant Stag Beetle July 29, 2009 I was trying to identify this huge beetle that was on my porch June 11th. I found it here and am very greatful. I was scared to walk past it! Stefanie Midland NC Hi Stefanie, When we made the Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, our Bug of the Month, we thought we would get several more submissions. Yours is the only one we received, though we got many images of a close relative, the Reddish Brown Stag Beetle.
Letter 10 – Giant Stag Beetle
Found a odd looking critter May 26, 2010 Just curious what type of insect this is. It looks like some sort of beetle but have never seen one before. Glad it’s Summer! Birmingham, AL Dear Glad, The Giant Stag Beetle or American Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, is quite a distinctive insect, especially the male with his impressive mandibles. Your specimen is a male. the females have significantly smaller mandibles.
Letter 11 – Giant Stag Beetle
Male Stag Beetle – Lucanus Elaphus Male Stag Beetle – Lucanus Elaphus Location: Newton, North Carolina June 24, 2011 11:47 pm This docile little fella came to me a couple of nights ago, so I snapped a few pics of him. I let him crawl around on me for a while before I tossed him back into the bushes. Signature: Rick (SCWIDVICIOUS) Hi Rick, Nice to hear from you again, and we are especially pleased that you are submitting images of a living Giant Stag Beetle since the only two examples we have posted this year have been smashed individuals found in parking lots. It saddens us greatly to think that so many people think it is fine to smash such a magnificent creature. I am glad you like and used the pics 🙂 It is ashamed for sure, I never understood why people want to kill any insect for being an insect, especially ones like this. You can rest well tonight knowing he is out there in the woods happily eating and fighting his buddies like he is meant too.. I will look to see if I can find a female soon. Have a good evening, Rick
Letter 12 – Giant Stag Beetle: Dead from Unknown Causes
Found in Atlanta Location: American southeast, Atlanta Georgia June 27, 2011 4:18 pm Hi Bugman! I found this beetle near Coca-Cola enterprise’s headquarters in Atlanta, and I have never seen such a bug! It has huge pincers, that come out from either side of its head, running parallel to the ground. Signature: Thanks!! This is now the third photo of a dead Giant Stag Beetle we have received this year and we only received one submission of a living individual. We hate those odds. Your letter did not indicate if this beetle was alive when you found it. It is a magnificent creature and we can only hope it died of old age.
Letter 13 – Giant Stag Beetle
Stag Beetle- Alive Location: Sanford, NC July 7, 2011 6:04 pm Hi. I saw the last 2 postings for Stag Beeltes ,and sadly they were not alive. Just wanted to let you know that my teen son rescued this one from a pool skimmer. We let him dry out & rest and he is as good as new. What a neat insect. we have never seen one before, but are big nature & insect fans. Signature: KeriAnn Hi KeriAnn, Thanks for sending your very sweet photo of a living Giant Stag Beetle as well as your thrilling rescue story. It just might have sent our editorial staff over the edge had we received another corpse photo. We are glad to share. We all have a love for all bugs. My 7 year old, in the photo has a special love for all things creepy & crawly. Have a good day/
Letter 14 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Nice Rhino? Beetle Location: Southern Illinois June 17, 2012 10:43 pm This is from a few weeks ago, a work neighbor found this and let me take some pic’s What is this beautiful specimen called? Signature: JimmyDean Dear JimmyDean, This is a Giant Stag Beetle or American Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, and it received both its common and scientific names based on the enlarged mandibles of the male Stag Beetle which resemble the antlers of a stag. Here is a nice etomylogical explanation from BugGuide: “Apparently species name is something of a reference to vertebrate zoology. The European Stag Beetle is Lucanus cervus. Cervus is Latin for deer/stag, and also the genus name for the European Red Deer, Cervus elaphus. (That species is holarctic, and called Elk or Wapiti in North America.) Elaphus is apparently a Greek word for deer. So the name elaphusis a reference to the Greek for deer or, more likely, to the scientific name for the Red Deer, for which the European Stag Beetle was also named. Very cute. (Based on Internet searches and correspondence, below.) Thanks to Maria Fremlin for help on the origin of the scientific name and for pointing out that ‘Giant Stag Beetle’ is the more accepted common name.”
Letter 15 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Possible stag beetle? Location: Greenville, SC June 20, 2012 10:52 am Hello! This was in the shop at work. We have never seen one before. It has a grey body with a red head and prominent pincers/jaws. It was seen a couple of weeks ago (late spring). Thank you! Signature: Kristina & Elizabeth Dear Kristina, You are correct. This is a Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus.
Letter 16 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Bug from NC Location: Raleigh, North Carolina June 30, 2012 9:58 am This bug was crawling very slowly on the outside of my front door near Raleigh North Carolina. I have never seen a bug like this before. Can you please identify it for me? Signature: Thank you! This impressive beetle is a male Giant Stag Beetle.
Letter 17 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Giant Stag Beetle Location: Carrboro NC June 26, 2014 9:25 pm Hi Bugman, I know this is a male Giant Stag Beetle…I just wanted to share his photo, because I don’t often find them alive, and undamaged. This fellow has been buzzing around my house for a couple of days. I saw him first on my back deck, then again on the kitchen screen the following day. He is very feisty , and rears up whenever I get close to him for his beauty shots. Signature: Mary S Hi Mary, This Giant Stag Beetle is sure an impressive creature and we are very happy to hear he was feisty. If this is not your first sighting, you must have a nearby habitat that includes stumps or rotting trees that will support the growth of the grubs. Pristine yards do not provide the necessary larval food, and as development encroaches upon wooded areas, the available native habitat dwindles, resulting in reduced numbers of many native insects. Thank you for supplying our site with your wonderful images. We do indeed have the perfect yard for Beetles. We adjoin a nature preserve that is chock full of rotting wood, stumps and snags…which translates to lots of great summer beetles arriving at our doorstep! I enjoy your website very much..nice to see a place where insects are not considered pests. Thank you for all you do to bring appreciation of the natural world to people who are not professionals in the field. All the best, Mary S Thank you so much for your kind response Mary. We are happy that our mission to provide educational information about the natural world to a popular culture audience is evident. For the record, our editorial staff has no formal entomological training and there is probably much misinformation contained in our archives as we are constantly learning more through submissions from our readers. Though we strive for accuracy, we are only human. Dear Daniel, I find that you do very careful work, and it is sometimes better than a large number of websites that lack your zeal for the subject. just yesterday, I sent a correction to a Univ of Michigan website ..written by a Phd that talked about the “Elephant Stag Beetle” Elaphus translates to Deer…not elephant…well you guys know that, but there it was on an educational website.I find that you also are open to correction, and interested in getting it right. Your site is also witty, and fun to read. I do wonder how you hold your temper when people write in about some uncommon insect that they crushed because they couldn’t identify it. I get both discouraged and angry when I see that response to our native wildlife. Anyway, you all rock! You make searching the web fun. Mary We are positively blushing now Mary. In our original response, we were going to state that had we not already prepared a posting of Stump Stabbers for the Bug of the Month for July 2014 earlier than usual, we would have strongly considered your submission. We have featured the Giant Stag Beetle from North Carolina in that capacity in July 2009 as July tends to be the month with the most Stag Beetle sightings. Since we generally only feature one Bug of the Month per month, and since we uncharacteristically prepared a posting very early, we had no choice but to stick to our original selection.
Letter 18 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Need help identifying Bug Location: Eastern Hanover Virginia, USA July 4, 2014 9:23 am Hello, Have a look at this prize. Awaiting at my back door facing to go in on a deck four feet off the ground. Location: Central Virginia, USA> Temp: 80 F. Humidity: 98%. Date: 7/3/2014. Time: 11:30 PM. Photo taken with flash on. I live in a subdivision with large wooded acres. WE are on a ten acre lot – of mostly wooded acres. Hope you can help with identifying this baby. Thanks. Signature: AC in the woods Hi AC in the woods, Your sighting of a Giant Stag Beetle is enviable. Rotting logs are needed to provide habitat for the grubs of Giant Stag Beetles, and habitat destruction and carefully manicured gardens are contributing to the decline in their numbers.
Letter 19 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Unidentified Beetle Location: SE Oklahoma September 16, 2014 8:45 am Hello, I understand if you don’t have time to identify this bug but I wanted to submit my pics none the less because I’ve never seen one quite like this and wanted to share it. He was found in SE Oklahoma by a friend of mine earlier this year. I don’t know alot about bugs but It resembles a rhinocerous beetle but without the horn and it has a huge forhead. Thanks! Signature: Amanda Dear Amanda, This magnificent beetle is a male Giant Stag Beetle.
Letter 20 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Strange bugs Location: Western missouri June 29, 2015 9:20 pm I have two. I am in western missouri and i have found several interesting bugs. The first one i found on a wall inside and i didnt recognize him. The second i believe is a stag beetle. I have never seen one in this part of Missouri before. We just finisef up with cicadas. They were black and red with red eyes and were just beautiful. I miss the song already. But we have the annual o ed to come still. Signature: Paul Gomez Hi Paul, We are currently experiencing server problems, and we cannot make new postings, but it is our intention to post your Giant Stag Beetle when the problem is resolved. The other beetle is a Longhorned Borer in the family Cerambycidae, but the photo is too blurry to determine the species. We did not get very many Periodical Cicada images this year.
Letter 21 – First Giant Stag Beetle sighting of the year
Subject: Big ugly bug Location: West Tennessee July 8, 2016 12:53 am I came home from work tonight to find this beetle hanging out on my deck railing. What the heck is it? I’ve never seen one quite like it. I’d have gotten a better photo, but I was afraid of irritating it with my flash and I really didn’t want it to chase after me in the middle of the night. Signature: Sally Dear Sally, Though we have already posted four images of the related Reddish-Brown Stag Beetle this year, your submission is the first image we are posting this year of the much more impressive male Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus. Those formidable mandibles are used by battling males who are competing for mates, and they pose no threat to humans.
Letter 22 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Crab Be USAetle/Pseudoscorpion? Location: Roswell, Georgia USA July 11, 2016 7:32 am Hi! This little guy was on my patio yesterday. I saw one other just like it years ago. I can’t quite find it in all the images around. I thought maybe a pseudoscorpion but this guy was well over an inch big. I’m really curious what it is. Thanks! Signature: Paula Farbolin Dear Paula, This beauty is a male Giant Stag Beetle. They are attracted to lights. Wow. Thanks! How can you tell it’s a male? (Yes, I realize I am opening the door to some mischief here). Males have the impressive, mandibles that resemble a stag’s antlers. Females, like this individual posted to BugGuide, lack the oversized mandibles.
Letter 23 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Found! Location: Charlotte NC May 28, 2017 8:08 am Found this guy outside my front door! We moved him to a better area with some plants! Signature: MW Dear MW, This magnificent male Giant Stag Beetle or Elk Stag Beetle has some really impressive mandibles. Stag Beetles pose no threat to humans and the males use their impressive mandibles to battle one another with the dominant male impressing the female so that he can pass on his genes. According to BugGuide: “There is some conservation concern about this species. The related Lucanus cervus, of Europe, is threatened. considered by Arkansas to be a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” (SGCN).” If you had on a porch light, that might have attracted this guy to your front door. Because of your kindness in relocating this gorgeous Giant Stag Beetle to a location where he would be safe, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Letter 24 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Large beetle w pincers Geographic location of the bug: Lilburn, Ga Date: 06/23/2018 Time: 01:49 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: I found this guy in the driveway. I’ve lived here for 10 years, and NEVER seen anything like him. We live in an older community with lots of wooded areas and a small lake. I’m afraid he may be dead. How you want your letter signed: Missy Skinner Dear Missy, This is a very impressive Giant Stag Beetle.
Letter 25 – Giant Stag Beetle
Subject: Large horned beetle Geographic location of the bug: Northwest Georgia Date: 08/19/2021 Time: 09:10 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: This nettle was hanging in the doorway of the sunroom. Actually it was dangling by a leg. How you want your letter signed: Rebecca Dear Rebecca, This impressive and harmless beetle is a Giant Stag Beetle.