Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 5–6, pp 897–906 | Cite as

A stag beetle’s life: sex-related differences in daily activity and behaviour of Lucanus cervus (Coleoptera: Lucanidae)

  • Massimiliano Tini
  • Marco Bardiani
  • Alessandro Campanaro
  • Stefano Chiari
  • Franco Mason
  • Emanuela Maurizi
  • Ilaria Toni
  • Paolo Audisio
  • Giuseppe M. Carpaneto


The study of behavioural ecology of rare and elusive species can be challenging, but it is an important issue for monitoring populations in planning conservation actions. This is especially true for arboreal insects inhabiting old-growth forests, whose habits are scarcely known and rely on many anecdotal data, such as the stag beetle Lucanus cervus (Linnaeus, 1758). In order to gather information on daily activity and behaviour of this species, a radio-telemetry study was conducted in a relict broadleaf forest surrounded by intensively cultivated land in northern Italy. During 2014 and 2015, from May to July, 55 stag beetles (34 males, 21 females) were radio-tagged. Most of them were caught with the aid of an entomological hand net, but nine of them were captured by emergence traps set up on deadwood. Visual contact analysis confirmed that stag beetle males were less elusive than females. Males were more frequently radio-tracked in flight, females mostly underground and in proximity of deadwood. Males were mostly observed flying at sunset, and resting or walking on standing trees during the day. The combination of air temperature and humidity determined the optimal weather conditions for male flights (temperature range: 20.7–26 °C, humidity range: 65.5–78.3%). Flying at sunset, mostly performed by males, significantly increased the detectability of the species and supported the selection of the ‘transect walk at dusk’ as the best monitoring method for the stag beetle.


Saproxylic beetles Radio-telemetry Detectability Old-growth forests Weather factors Segmented linear regression 



The present paper was supported by the EU project LIFE11 NAT/IT/000252 MIPP “Monitoring Insects with Public Participation” with the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union, and by the Regional Park Agency (ARP Lazio) project “Monitoring of saproxylic and xylophagous insect populations in the protected areas of Latium”. A special permit was obtained from the Italian Ministry of Environment for handling and capturing individuals of the target species (collection permit: Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare—DG Protezione della Natura e del Mare, U.prot PNM 2012–0010890 del 28/05/2012). Our greatest thanks are due to Marco Bologna, who was the Coordinator of the MIPP Beneficiary Roma Tre University. We are also grateful to the staff of the National Forest Service at the State Reserve “Bosco della Fontana”, for facilitations and help. Special thanks are due to Randi Rollins (Ogden, Utah, USA) who voluntarily helped during the fieldwork in 2014, and to Alice Malavasi for the fieldwork assistance in 2015. We thank G. Gerosa and A. Finco of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Brescia, Italy) for weather conditions data recorded by the meteorological station placed inside the Reserve. We thank Alan Gange and Marcos Méndez for precious advice for the improvement of the manuscript. We are grateful to Agnese Zauli (CREA, Florence), Sarah Rossi de Gasperis (Roma Tre University, Rome), Lara Redolfi De Zan (CREA, Florence), Federico Romiti (Roma Tre University, Rome) for useful discussion. A special thank is for Leonardo Vignoli (Roma Tre University, Rome) who gave a precious help in statistical analysis and discussing the results and for Henrietta Pringle for native English speaker editing. The authors would also like to thank the Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar for inspiring the title of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10841_2017_29_MOESM1_ESM.tif (842 kb)
Online resource 1. A stag beetle male equipped with radio transmitter (LB-2X, 0.31 g; Holohil Systems Ltd., Carp, Ontario, Canada) and marked with a numbered sticker on the right elytron, walking on a tree trunk in the evening. Supplementary material 1 (TIF 842 KB)
10841_2017_29_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (121 kb)
Online resource 2. Number of homing procedures recorded for each activity (Table A) and for each position (Table B) over 24 hours and during the different time slots. Supplementary material 2 (PDF 120 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Massimiliano Tini
    • 1
  • Marco Bardiani
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alessandro Campanaro
    • 2
    • 3
  • Stefano Chiari
    • 1
    • 3
  • Franco Mason
    • 4
  • Emanuela Maurizi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ilaria Toni
    • 2
  • Paolo Audisio
    • 5
  • Giuseppe M. Carpaneto
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di ScienzeUniversità Roma TreRomeItaly
  2. 2.Centro Nazionale per lo Studio e la Conservazione della Biodiversità Forestale Carabinieri ‘Bosco Fontana’, Sede di Bosco FontanaMarmirolo (Mantova)Italy
  3. 3.CREA – ABP Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria - Centro di ricerca per l’agrobiologia e la pedologiaFlorenceItaly
  4. 4.Centro Nazionale per lo Studio e la Conservazione della Biodiversità Forestale Carabinieri ‘Bosco Fontana’, Sede di VeronaVeronaItaly
  5. 5.Dipartimento di Biologia e Biotecnologie “C. Darwin”Sapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly

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