Love is all they need! Twickenham wildlife lover urges people to be aware of stag beetles during mating season
A Twickenham wildlife enthusiast is urging south west London residents to look out for rare stag beetles this summer.
The area is a hotspot for the globally threatened insect, with Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common home to particularly high numbers.
Passionate about wildlife, Mike Strick, 47, took to Facebook to raise awareness of the plight of stag beetles and was very surprised to find his post received more than 60,000 shares in a fortnight.
“Every year I’m shocked by how many people fail to recognise these icons of British wildlife,” the life-long nature lover said.
A protected species, the stag beetle is the largest in the UK and with their distinctive size, coupled with the males’ large antler-like jaws, they’re easily recognisable.
From May to July the beetles emerge from seven years underground and take flight to find a mate.
But all too often the search for love ends before it’s begun as they are crushed by traffic or pedestrians.
Having lived in the area most of his life, Mike has noticed the decreasing stag population and is saddened by how many beetles die because people don’t know they are endangered.
“It’s the one chance they’ve got and it’s blown by somebody who doesn’t even know what they are,” he explained.
“I do remember in my childhood when the stag beetles flew in early summer you’d go out in the evening and they would be buzzing around all over the place – now it’s relatively rare.
“You will maybe see three across a whole summer rather than going out at the right time of year and knowing you will definitely be able to spot some.”
Dead wood provides the insects’ habitat, with eggs laid under logs and tree stumps taking seven years to mature.
However adults are short-lived and die soon after mating.
Mathew Frith, director of policy and planning at the London Wildlife Trust recognises the creatures’ striking appearance may frighten some, especially as they are clumsy fliers and land unexpectedly.
However he stresses they are harmless and, far from being pests, they help turn dead wood into soil by eating it.
He said: “The species is globally threatened, and we have a duty to help conserve it and reverse its declines.”
He suggests people help stag beetles by keeping logs in their gardens or encouraging parks to install loggeries in shaded wooded corners.
London Wildlife Trust wants to keep an up-to-date record of the number of stag beetles and where they are in the capital in order to find out why the insects prefer certain areas to others.
Report your sightings at www.gigl.org.uk/online/staggeringgains.aspx
Picture courtesy of Katherine Strick, with thanks