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Giant Stag Beetle (Lucanus elaphus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Giant Stag Beetle



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Image Credit: Chad Sakada from McAdenville, NC
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Image Credit: Rudy P. from Durham, NC
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The hefty body and extended mandibles make the Giant Stag Beetle the largest Stag in North America.



Updated: 07/06/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
It's not hard to see what makes the Giant Stag Beetle so fascinating. It is enormous, boasting lengths at 6 cm (over 2 inches). Large curved mandibles that look like formidable pincers grace the front of the male's head; females have much shorter, more ordinary mandibles. Males use these to fight with other males over females. A flattened area round at the base of the mandibles looks almost like a shield for the male's head. Pale wings are tucked under the elytra (coverings), but most times this beetle is found trekking on the ground. The body's overall color is somewhere between black and maroon. It is the largest species of its kind in the Stag family, and may bite if handled roughly.

Giant Stag Beetles drink leaking tree sap as well as the sticky, sweet honeydew secreted by aphids found on plant stems. They can be found on or around oak trees, rotting tree stumps and logs. Females lay fertilized eggs in decomposing logs and tree trunks. The large, white larvae develop over a year or more before molting into the adult form.

Because the offspring rely on soft, rotting wood, Giant Stag Beetles are often found in old, wild woodlands. Parks and managed forest land tends to have less decaying wood lying around, reducing that area's usefulness as a habitat. Adults are most active at night, where cover of dark can aid in camouflaging them from predators. Like moths, they seem to be attracted to lights and may wander closer to homes and buildings giving people a fair opportunity to see one in all its glory.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect biting icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Lucanidae
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          Genus: Lucanus
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            Species: elaphus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Lucanus elaphus
Other Name(s): American Stag Beetle
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 28mm to 60mm (1.10" to 2.36")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, red
Descriptors: huge, large, heavy, bumps, pincers, pinchers, antlers, long, maroon, jaws
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 28mm (1.1in) and 60mm (2.4in)
Lo: 28mm
Md: 44mm
Hi: 60mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Giant Stag Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Giant Stag Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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