Summary: Stag beetles, also known as staghorn beetles, are relatively harmless and are easy to handle. The stag beetle's gigantic jaws are their most distinguishing characteristic.
No, it is not called the Stag beetle because it spends its Saturday nights alone, but rather because of the antlers found on their heads. Male Stag beetles use these antlers to fight other males when attractive female stag beetles are nearby. Their antlers are relatively harmless. However, the female stag beetles' antlers are considerably smaller, but sharper and therefore can make predators feel a sharp prick. You should be grateful that your mother-in-law does not have this capability.
Two types of stag beetles are the common stag beetle, also known as the pinching bug, and the elephant beetle, which is also known as the giant stag beetle. The male beetles have an enormous jaw that can be half as long as
the stag beetle itself. It's that jaw that makes us jump back when we come upon one of these babies. The jaws of the stag beetle are large and branching. When it feels that its environment is threatening, the stag beetle leans back on its hind legs and opens its jaws very wide. This move helps protect the stag beetle from lizards, birds, toads, snakes, centipedes, raccoons, skunks, and weasels. However, humans should not be afraid of handling a stag beetle because they will only feel a slight pinch if bitten by one.
Like the scarab beetle, the stag beetle has wings that have a covering. When a beetle is preparing to fly, it must remove its wings from the cover, delaying its takeoff and giving it less time to fly away from predators. Hence, the big, bad jaws.
The adult stag beetle builds its habitat in decaying wood, logs, or stumps. It eats soft water based substances like mellons or sweet juices.
The female stag beetle lays its larvae in rotting wood, especially if the wood is moist. The larvae continue to grow there. After the larvae hatch, they burrow their way into the wood for food. Because they help decompose rotting wood and trees, stag beetle larvae are helpful to the environment and are typically not considered pests. However, the larvae also eat roots, so they could cause damage to any plants you have growing in your yard.
If you see stag beetles in your yard, look around for their larvae. Keep in mind that male and female adult stag beetles do not live very long after the females have laid eggs, so if you wish to relocate the beetles it is more important to deal with moving the larvae rather than the adults. Larvae usually live between three to five years before becoming adult stag beetles. Also keep in mind that it is good news if the larvae are feeding on decomposing dead wood, but it may be bad news if they are feasting on the roots of plants in your garden.
Stag beetles are attracted to light, so be prepared to see them near your porch or patio light at night. Check for stag beetles living in or near tree sap in the daytime. They are likely to be found there because tree sap is one of their favorite foods. These beetles are also attracted to rotting, sweet-smelling fruit. Be sure to throw away those empty juice boxes or discarded pieces of fruit your kids leave laying around outside. Otherwise, you may be paid a visit by a family of stag beetles.
The best way to avoid stag beetles posing a threat to your backyard is to keep firewood or decaying wood far away from plants or gardens. This way, stag beetles will decompose the wood, but are unlikely to go near your award-winning sunflowers.