WILDLIFE lovers in Worcestershire are being given the chance to contribute to a major study building up a picture of the population and activities of the magnificent, but endangered, stag beetle.

Although on the fringe of the main stag beetle area in the UK, there is one particular hotspot in Worcestershire – Upton-upon-Severn – where stag beetles are a common sight in late spring to mid-summer. There have also been sightings in the nearby villages of Ryall, Tunnel Hill, Ripple, Bushley and Longdon.

Communications manager of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Wendy Carter said: “We’re hopeful that there are stag beetles between Upton and these villages but don’t necessarily have records of confirmed sightings. Sightings in these locations, however, do link our Worcestershire populations of stag beetles with those in north Gloucestershire.

She added that there is a possibility stag beetles are present in the Bredon Hill area too. “We have had a potential record in the Bredon Hill area but we are waiting for the time when the adults come out to confirm it.”

In the meantime, Worcestershire residents are being invited by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to take part in the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network survey during June and July.

All volunteers need to do is walk 500m, six times between June and July on warm, summer evenings, counting and recording any stag beetles they see. To take part in the survey please visit: www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org.

The network was set up by the Research Institute for Nature and Forest and co-funded by PTES, comprises partner institutes and universities from 13 European countries from Germany and Greece, to the UK and Ukraine. It aims to assess population levels across Europe, monitoring the stag beetle’s full range.

Stag beetles are Britain’s largest land beetle with males reaching up to three inches in length. They are also one of the most spectacular looking insects, with a males’ huge mandibles (antler-like jaws) making them easy to spot.

Despite their appearance, stag beetles are harmless if left alone, and from mid-to-late-May are more likely to be seen as warmer evenings draw them above ground to find a mate and reproduce.

Laura Bower, conservation officer at PTES, explains: “Loss of habitat and lack of dead or decaying wood are just two of the reasons why stag beetles need our help. Stag beetles are completely reliant on dead wood (either partially or completely buried) and are part of the process of recycling nutrients back into the soil, making them a very important part of the ecosystem.”

PTES wants members of the public to record any sightings directly to them via the Great Stag Hunt – an annual stag beetle survey PTES has been running for nearly 20 years. To record a sighting, please visit: www.ptes.org/gsh.

Wendy added: “It would be great if readers could let us, or the national survey know, of any sightings they have of stag beetles as it helps us to track how they’re doing. It’s likely that the big old pollarded trees in that area are great for stag beetles.

“It’s important to note that lesser stag beetles, which can look very like female stag beetles, also occur in the area so a photo is really important to help ensure that we’re recording the right species.”