Tracking the beetles in Suffolk

FOR 45 years, we've had The Beatles on radio … now for the first times radios are being put on beetles!Stag beetles have been in decline in the UK for many years and conservationists believe this is due to a shortage of habitat for the developing larvae - decaying broad-leaved woodland.

FOR 45 years, we've had The Beatles on radio … now for the first times radios are being put on beetles!

Stag beetles have been in decline in the UK for many years and conservationists believe this is due to a shortage of habitat for the developing larvae - decaying broad-leaved woodland.

Colin Hawes, who lives at Bentley, near Ipswich, and is an expert on stag beetles, is monitoring the movements of six of the animals - three males and three females. A colleague has radio-tagged six others at Fetcham in Surrey.

Some of the creatures were captured in flight using butterfly nets and others were caught by hand or in “pitfall” traps.


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The tiny transmitters attached to their backs weigh just 400 milli-grams and measure six millimetres by three millimetres. Signals from the transmitters are noted at least three times a day.

Mr Hawes, 68, said: “The purpose of the research is to determine how far male and female beetles disperse from their emergence sites.

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“This information is vital if we are to provide the correct advice for the conservation of this nationally scarce insect.”

The stag beetle is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan - drawn up to focus efforts on various conservation targets.

Populations of the creature in East Anglia are mainly confined to southern England and in Suffolk it is found in the south and south east of the County, with considerable numbers in Ipswich and Woodbridge, and on the Shotley and Felixstowe peninsulas.

“Distribution is temperature and soil related, the beetles being found in the warmest and driest parts of the UK on well-drained soils.

“Gardens with a good supply of dead, decaying wood - in the form of stumps, roots and logs - and well-drained soil provide excellent habitats for this beetle,” Mr Hawes said.

Beetle facts:

nStag beetles, like people, vary in size. The largest males can be 3.5 inches/9 cm long while females are generally smaller, the largest reaching 1.75 inches/4.5 cm

nThe main difference between the two sexes isin the jaws, males having large reddish/chestnut coloured jaws called “antlers” and females having very small black jaws

nThe largest beetles weigh more than four grams.

nEggs are laid in June and July some 40/50 cm underground adjacent to decaying broadleaved wood (roots, stumps etc).

nLarvae take up to six years to grow to full size, feeding on the decaying wood.

nThe resulting beetle stays underground for a further 7-8 months until the above ground temperature is suitable, when it digs its way out to emerge in the evening.

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