Exploring the Diversity of Stag Beetles Globally

Stag beetles are a surprisingly varied bunch, despite all of them having some common qualities. Read on about the main stag beetle types around the world.

Stag beetles (Lucanus Cervus) are a big family of large beetles known for their huge mandibles. Their mandibles look like the antlers of a stag, which is where they get their names from. 

Most varieties of stag beetles usually look the same and have similar traits and features

However, since they are such a big group of insects, there are a lot of minute differences that we can see among the family members. 

In this article, we will take a look at some of the different types of stag beetles to understand these differences better. 

How Many Types of Stag Beetles Are There?

There are around 1,200 different types of stag beetles scattered worldwide. They all differ in their ability to bite, sizes, colors, and habits. 

Most of these beetles are found in hedgerows, gardens, parks, and woodlands. While they are quite common in the US, they are also found in Europe, Australia, and Asia.

Listed below are a few of the most common types of stag beetles seen in different parts of the world. 

Common Stag Beetle

Common stag beetles are one of the largest beetles in the family. These insects are also called pinching bugs. 

Like all other stag beetle species, the males are equipped with a pair of strong mandibles. 

However, these mandibles are comparatively smaller than the others in the family. They have a reddish brown-colored body which gives them a tough appearance. 

Adult stag beetles can show an average growth of 0.86-1.57 inches in length. 

They love to be around decaying deadwood as the larvae mainly consume the white rot from these dead log piles.

Common Stag Beetle
Brownish Red Stag Beetle

Giant Stag Beetle

Giant stag beetles are one of the largest beetles in the US. Adult beetles are usually found in the deciduous forest during summer. 

They also have huge mandibles and can grow up to 2.5 inches in length (including the length of the mandibles).

The male beetle is comparatively bigger than the female stag beetle. You will mostly find the males wrestling each other with the mandibles to earn mating rights. 

The females, on the other hand, are in constant search of spots to lay eggs. Cracks of decaying wood are a perfect spot for laying eggs.

Giant Stag Beetle
Giant Stag Beetle

 

Golden Stag Beetle

Golden stag beetles are known for their glistening, golden-colored oval bodies. They show an average growth of 0.59-0.98 inches in length. 

It is the adult males that are usually metallic golden in color, while the females can be metallic blue, green, or dull brown. 

Despite the different shades, you will always find a touch of glistening golden hue on them. 

These beetles are native to Australia, and you can find them in the dry sclerophyll forests of Eastern Australia and Tasmania. 

Golden Stag Beetle
Golden Stag Beetle

Rainbow Stag Beetle

Like the golden stag beetles, rainbow beetles are also known for their shiny bodies that flash the colors of the rainbow. You may find them in shiny red, green, and blue colors. 

These insects are one of the most beautiful beetles in the world and are highly in demand as pets. 

Rainbow beetles were endemic to the rainforests of Queensland, Australia. 

But later, beetle breeders in Japan started breeding them in their country, and now, a significant population is available in that country as well. 

They also have a pair of wings, but they barely use them. Male rainbow stag beetles can grow from  0.94 to 2.76 inches in length. 

Female beetles are comparatively smaller and are usually  0.91 to 1.81 inches in length. 

Unlike most of the stag beetle species, they do not have strong chewing muscles. Hence the bites are not too painful. 

Rainbow Stag Beetle
Rainbow Stag Beetle. Source: Image via Flickr by Frupus

Cottonwood Stag Beetle

The cottonwood stag beetle prefers to be around areas with loose soil and high temperatures. They are mostly seen dwelling around riparian areas and old cottonwood trees. 

Cottonwood stag beetles can grow from 1.02 to 1.14 inches in length and have glossy back-colored bodies.

You can find them in different regions of Southern Asia, Australia, and the US. 

The beetle larvae actively consume tree sap and white rot from dead logs, while the adults mostly rely on the fat storage developed during the larval stage to survive. 

Cottonwood Stag Beetle
Cottonwood Stag Beetle

Ceruchus piceus

This is one of the unique members of the stag beetle family. Unlike the others on the list, Ceruchus Piceus are quite small in size. 

They are so tiny that people might consider them to be ground beetles are first glance. 

However, if you look closely, they have elbow-shaped antennae different from the ground beetles.

These beetles show an average growth of a mere 0.31-0.6 inches in length

Ceruchus piceus Stag Beetle
Rainbow Stag Beetle. Source: Image via Flickr by Treegrow

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the largest species of stag beetle?

The giraffe stag beetle is the largest species of stag beetle in the world. These beetles can easily grow up to 2.5  inches in length and have strong and muscular jaws. 
They are mostly found in India, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. They prefer to live near logs of dead deciduous trees.

How do you identify a stag beetle?

Stag beetles can be easily identified by the huge mandibles that are almost as big as their bodies. These mandibles resemble the antlers of a stag. 
This is one of the main reasons why they are called stag beetles in the first place. Also, you should know that males have larger mandibles than females.

Can you touch a stag beetle?

Yes, you can touch a stag beetle, but you must be careful. These insects have strong jaws and chewing muscles. 
They can inflict excruciating pain through their bites. To avoid getting bit, it is good to wear safety gloves while touching or picking these beetles up. 

Are stag beetles harmful?

Stag beetles can bite and cause problems like bleeding, irritation, redness, and swelling, but they rarely attack humans. 
These insects are non-aggressive and are also non-poisonous in nature. Yes, the bites will be painful, but they won’t cause fatal damage.

Wrap Up

Stag beetles are a big family of insects. While most of them have similar characteristics and features, many differ in certain aspects. 

We hope that the information provided in this article to identify different types of stag beetles will help you differentiate between them. 

Thank you for reading the piece.   

Reader Emails

Stag beetles are found all across the world, and their unique characteristics make them different from each other.

Several of our readers have shared pics of these beetles in our communications, some of which you may find in the emails below. Please do go through!

Letter 1 – Stag Beetle

 

Hi,
I’ve pored over your 19 pages of beetles, (with many pauses for distraction by fascinating photos & letters) But haven’t been able to identify this big shiny smooth black beetle. The closest match seemed to be a Bess Beetle, but the proportions don’t seem right. and ours don’t have the lines running along the back. The photo was taken at night, with a flash. Sorry it lacks detail. They’re very glossy black, we see them here at our house in Minneapolis on June / July nights when they visit our front door screen (Under a porch light) some times 2 or 3 of them at a time. They are slow moving, they rise up into an aggressive posture when disturbed. One time I found one with its feet up floating in a bowl of water, not moving. I brought it inside and left it in a tray on the counter and after 3-4-days of "Death" it came out of whatever suspended state it was in and began to walk around. We decided we like them better outside than in! Thanks for your help!
Dave Ahl

Hi Dave,
We admire anyone who will pour over all nineteen of our beetle pages in an effort to identify a mysterious visitor befor writing to us. This is a female Ox beetle in the tribe Oryctini. We are not certain if it is in the genus Xyloryctes or the genus Strategus. Perhaps Eric Eaton can provide the answser for us.

Daniel:
The image is of a stag beetle, Lucanus placidus. In your defense, that is one awkward angle to make any kind of identification from! The entire head of the animal is virtually undefined. It took me a bit to see that the antennae were ‘wrong’ for a scarab….More images and information can be found at Bugguide (or I would not have been able to reach a proper conclusion myself!). One other clue was the behavior described: “rearing up” is classic for stag beetles, almost unheard of in scarabs.
Eric

Letter 2 – Stag Beetle: Saved from Drowning

 

toe-biter or stag beetle… I’m guessing
This stag beetle or toe biter (or whatever it is) was found in our dog’s water dish on our back porch. I “scooped” it out with the glass jar that you see. (I didn’t want it to die, but I also didn’t want to let it go until I could find out what it is.) The photos of the beetles were taken today (July 8, 2004) near Chattanooga, Tennessee. (I sent two photos hoping that my hand holding the jar would provide some perspective. I thought the photo without my hand perhaps had a better angle.) Hope these photos are helpful to someone seeking more information. Thanks for your help… despite the barrage of inquiries you receive. I’m glad to know there’s a place that can help “name” the many insect-type “critters” out there!
Sincerely,
Anita

Hi Anita,
Your beetle, which you undoubtedly saved from sure drowning, is a Stag Beetle, probably a Pseudolucanus species.

Letter 3 – Stag Beetle

 

what is this beetle?
here’s a beetle i found. about 2 inches in length. can you help me?
thanks!
Alan

Hi Alan,
A Stag Beetle, probably a male Pseudolucanus capreolus. He is very pretty. Glad to see you are not afraid.

wow! thanks for the quick response. i usually don’t get freak by insects – i love them, but i was a little nervous with this guy in my hand!

(01/23/2005) new pics
you identified this beetle for me last year and posted pics i’d sent you (beetles 2004). thought i’d send these close ups of the same beetle.
enjoy!
Alan

Thanks Alan,
Have you kept this beautiful Stag Beetle as a pet for the past six months, or are the photos from last year?

Letter 4 – Stag Beetle

 

Stag Beetle
After searching the internet for hours trying to identify my beetle, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a Stag Beetle, but now I’m wondering if it’s a placidus or a capreolus. I know the capreolus has honey colored femurs, which I thought was the case in my first photo, but when I turned one of the bugs over, it clearly has dark legs from top to bottom. Could you let me know exactly which type of Stag I have here? Also, they live in my rock garden, will they damage my plants?
Rae Ann

Hi Rae Ann
The two species you mentioned are difficult to tell apart, but we thought Eric Eaton might be of assistance. Here is his response: I don’t know the species well enough to say, but I do know that Pseudolucanus has now been lumped into the genus Lucanus. Genus should be plenty. I’d refer the person somewhere else if they just "have to" know the species:-) Larvae live in decaying wood.” So they will not damage your plants.

Letter 5 – Stag Beetle

 

stag beetle
July 6, 2010
the dog brought a stag beetle to the door as a gift. We live in the city so any cool bugs are a big deal! We rescued it & the kids drew pics of it. Noticed that there weren’t any 2010 pics of stag beetles so was hoping this might make the cut!
Rachel in Philadelphia
Northeast Philadelphia,PA

Reddish Brown Stag Beetle

Hi Rachel,
We actually have posted four letters with images of Stag Beetles thus far in 2010, but we can always use some new ones, especially photos as entertaining as the ones you have submitted of this handsome male Reddish Brown Stag Beetle,
Lucanus capreolus.  We can imagine Albrecht Dürer working with a living beetle in the same way that your young artists have.  If we decide to do a 2011 Calendar, your image is a strong contender.

Reddish Brown Stag Beetle as Artists' model

Letter 6 – Stag Beetle

 

Subject: Bug in my kitchen
Location: Massachusetts
July 7, 2015 7:19 pm
Hi,
I found this bug in my kitchen at night. Please identify it to put my wife at ease. 😁
That’s a quarter next to it for size reference.
Thank you
Signature: Mike T

Stag Beetle
Stag Beetle

Dear Mike,
Though a nip might result if it is carelessly handled, this Stag Beetle is perfectly harmless.  It was most likely attracted by lights and it poses no threat to you or your home.

Letter 7 – Stag Beetle

 

Subject: Stag Beetle or not?
Location: Michigan
May 29, 2017 8:03 pm
Found one of these guys on my porch and did a little research to try and identify him. Is this a Stag Beetle subspecies? And if so, is it common to see them this far north?
Signature: Suz

Stag Beetle

Dear Suz,
We are pretty sure that based on this BugGuide image, your male Stag Beetle is
Lucanus placidusAccording to BugGuide:  “Similar to L. capreolus, but much darker, elytra more punctate. Legs dark reddish brown, no light brown patches as in capreolus. Several small teeth on inside of mandibles of male–capreolus has only one.”  Your images do appear to show “several small teeth on the inside of mandibles of male.”

Stag Beetle

Thanks for your reply! Are these common in Michigan?

We have no information on how common they are.  There might be local population differences depending upon available food and habitat.  Michigan is within the range of sightings recorded on BugGuide’s data page.

Letter 8 – Stag Beetle

 

Subject: Flying fuzzy beetle
Location: KT1 4DQ
June 1, 2017 5:15 am
Dear Bugman,
Last night at dusk we spotted 2 of these flying fuzzy beetles approx. 2 inches long flying around our small back garden. At one point they landed and seemed interested in the underside of a pot of thyme herbs. This morning we found one photo attached) on the table outside. Keen to know what they are as we have never seen them before. Many thanks, A
Signature: A

Stag Beetle

Dear A,
This is a male Stag Beetle.  Where is KT1 4DQ?

Dear Bugman,
Thank you! He was back again this evening.
KT1 4DQ is Hampton Wick, UK (down the road from Hampton Court Palace).
Best,
A

Letter 9 – Stag Beetle

 

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
August 16, 2017 11:10 am
We had this bug crawling on our screen door one night. This has been the only one that I have seen. I looked up a stag beetle, but they didn’t look the same as this one. This one was roughly the size of my thumb.
Signature: Chad Stewart

Stag Beetle

Dear Chad,
You are correct that this is a Stag Beetle, and there are “38 spp. in 8 genera of 3 subfamilies in our area~1500 spp. in 109 genera worldwide” according to BugGuide, which might explain why the image you found on the internet did not look the same.  Since your image is a rather blurry, backlit, silhouette, exact identification might be problematic, but we believe this is a male Reddish Brown Stag Beetle.

Letter 10 – Stag Beetle

 

Subject:  Large black beetle found in house
Geographic location of the bug:  South-east Wisconsin (Wind Lake)
Date: 06/26/2018
Time: 07:34 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello! My name is Lexi and I live in South-eastern Wisconsin.
I was on my laptop when my dad called me into the kitchen exclaiming that there was a large bug found. This big was about 1-2 inches long and had wide black pinchers. We did not, in fact, kill the bug but put it out on the porch in the rain. The picture is the bug right way up on a napkin which was used to carry it outside.
How you want your letter signed:  Best Regards and Respect. ~Lexi

Stag Beetle

Dear Lexi,
Because you described this Stag Beetle as black, we suspect it is
Lucanus placidus, which is described on BugGuide as “Similar to L. capreolus, but much darker, elytra more punctate. Legs dark reddish brown, no light brown patches as in capreolus. Several small teeth on inside of mandibles of male–capreolus has only one.”

Thank you for responding so quickly! I was just wondering, would you consider this Stag beetle a male or a female?

It appears to be a male.

Letter 11 – Stag Beetle

 

Subject:  Cedar beetle or something else?
Geographic location of the bug:  Evergreen Park, IL
Date: 06/08/2019
Time: 11:52 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have a raised bed garden made from organic cedar wood. This is my third year with it, and I have never noticed these bugs before. From far away I though it was a small frog, which would have been odd. Upon a closer look I noticed that it is a beetle. Is this bug a threat to my herbs and vegetables? I have a dog and small children that play near (sometimes in) my garden, will it bite or hurt my child or dog? If it gets in my home is there going to be an issue?
How you want your letter signed:  Sincerely, Laura McRae

Stag Beetle

Dear Laura,
This is a Stag Beetle in the family Lucanidae.  It will not harm your herbs and vegetables.  Stag Beetles have powerful mandibles, and they might nip if carelessly handled, but they are not considered dangerous to humans or pets.  We believe your individual might be
Lucanus placidus based on this BugGuide image.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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3 thoughts on “Exploring the Diversity of Stag Beetles Globally”

  1. I was bit tonight by a black looking, hard shell bug with pitchers on the front of its head. The little stinker was in my pajama shorts. He had a good hold on me and I almost didn’t get him loose. He look like the picture of the stag beatle. I tried to mash him with my shoe and he wouldn’t die so I picked him up with Kleenex and flushed him down the toilet. Stag Beatles are poison are they? It itches where he bit me. Last night I didn’t feel anything bite me but I ached all over like I had the flu or something but I’m better today and now this hapoened. The place where he punched me smarts. I hope he is happy. I love I. Central Georgia.

    Reply

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