Saturday, 1 November 2014

Stanley... his last year.

Stanley... 2011 to 2014 [possibly]
Stanley was found early this year on our woodchip "patio"...
we had decided that the existing woodchip had composted a bit too much over the winter...
so I began to remove it to use as mulch on one of the front flowerbeds.
Shortly after I began, I started to find chafer grubs...
probably Rose Chafer... our most common....
when I un-woodchipped a monster with really powerful looking jaws...
he was three times as large...
his sides were less complex than the chafers'....
and he looked altogether more solid.

The "young" Stanley

He was found near a chunk of willow log....
that we'd been using as an impromptu glass/mug putting down point...
and was most certainly a large, rotten wood denizen.
A quick look through the most likely suspects revealed nothing like him...
so I went for the less obvious and realized...
quite quickly...
that he was a Stag Beetle [Lucarnus cervus] Cerf Volant!
Cor! Exciting... well, I thought so.
he was living off the rotting woodchip of our "WOODCHIPIO"®...
although mother probably hadn't laid him there...
more than likely she'd laid her eggs in the old chunk of... then... slightly rotten willow.

Stanley can be recognised by the simpler folds along his sides...
this is a Rose Chafer grub and Stanley for comparison...

Stanley is on the left... the Rose Chafer larvae are inset...
note the much more ridged appearance of the two chafer grubs...
also their smaller head.

What to do with Stanley...
little else than pot him!
A reasonable size black plastic pot was to hand, so a handful of the chosen "feed" went in...
followed by himself... and topped off with yet more expatio.
Not long after, I found another smaller specimen, not as active as Stan...
but still too large to be a Lesser Stag Beetle larva...
the adults of which we get plenty passing by on the "WOODCHIPIO"®...
that one was also duly potted up.

The two pots were stood by the back door so I could keep an eye on them.
After about two months I noticed that Stan's food had depeleted somewhat...
so I took the opportunity to change the media and have a look at both specimens...
the smaller one was no longer with us...
just a husk remained... parasitised??
But Stanley was still very active...
and a right woodworker he'd turned out to be!!
And, as you can see below, a plastics muncher as well.
He was duly repotted into an old ceramic flowerpot...
I'm sure that black plastic wouldn't do him any good!!
The pots were always given the occasional watering to keep the expatio moist.

This...
PLUS...
These...
EQUALS...
THIS!!!

Another couple of months past and I noticed that the food level hadn't gone down very much...
had the plastic damaged him?
Only one way to find out, tip the contents of the pot out.
Only half came out...
along with this splendid pupa...
I breathed a sigh of relief...
took the pictures below...
upended the pot again and put it gently back over him...
and using a bit of card, returned Stanley to the upright.
You can see the inside of the pupal "case " in the second picture below.

Side view.... No wonder the Egyptians revered the Stag Beetle...
looks just like a Mummy!!
And you can see the edges of the sarcophagus here!!

They spend three to five years in the dead wood of the tree trunk...
but how long Stanley had been on our "WOODCHIPIO"®...
who knows...
he may have been laid there by a female we spotted close by a few years before...
or in the wood whilst it was stacked out on the pré by the old trognes....
there is plenty of rotting willow that never got brought up to the hangar down there.

This is not Mummy... this female was pictured by the longère in July 2010


But the "WOODCHIPIO"® hadn't been there before the "Big Freeze" of 2012...
that was when we ground up all the dead Cherry Laurel and made the sitting out area...
However, the chunks of willow had been out under the trognes for a couple of years before that.
So, who knows....

So, how long does the pupal stage last?
About four months at least...
because a few days ago, on checking the pots early in the morning, I found Stanley...
struggling, upside down on the top of his expatio!!

Stanley... wide-eyed and legless!!

Unfortunately, I feel he's hatched too early...
the latest, unseasonably warm spell after a cold snap might have triggered his emergence early...
too early to find a mate... pity.
There is a wonderfully illustrated and interactive life-cycle on Maria Fremlin's website.

Some Stag Beetles we've come across....

This one was trying to cross the road...
not a good survival technique, really!!
 
We found this really huge one crawling allong the pavement in La Celle Geunand...
he was four inches from the tip of the antlers to the tail...
impressive, non?
Sitting on the car bonnet...
"C'mon... If you think you're big enough!!"
Stanley...
a bit on the small side...
I don't think his diet was really up to scratch!!
Call these "antlers"!!

As you can see from the above pictures, we do get quite a few Stag Beetles in this region....
partly because of the vast amount of forest which is managed mainly for hunting and firewood.
But how long this situation will continue, who knows...
a lot of new building, especially institutional and commercial....
has been designed to be heated using woodburners....
mainly in the form of woodchip... but also log and pellet.
At Paulmy, a woodchip supplier has set up a "chippery"...
to coin a word... and is buying up waste wood to convert and dry.
In Descartes, the local paper works is looking to build a CHP* unit...
this will be using an estimated 200,000 tonnes of woodchip [plaquettes] garnered from a radius of around 100 kilometres.
To make this viable, the closer & cheaper the wood the better...
and that means all the "brash"... the wood too uneconomical to sell as firewood...
and normally left to rot in a pile....
suddenly has value and will vanish from the environment...
and along with it the potential for wood boring beetles to exploit stacks of rotting timber...
to our loss, environmentally.
Individuals can counteract that loss by stacking old timber...
neatly and closely, in a corner of their property...
or, if you have the space, anywhere convenient...
for example; two decaying chunks have fallen from our old "trognes"...
they have been left where they fell... I now mow around them...
and the "cleanings" from the river I managed to get dumped on our side of the Aigronne....
I will harvest the most useful wood from those piles...
but the remainder will get stacked, closely, for beetles and other wildlife.
So, please, create a "dead log" pile, somewhere.

And if you have youngsters... or grandchildren who visit...
invest in a Junior Bug Observation kit or two...
and point the young ones at the "dead log" pile...
all will be quiet for hours at a time...

-----------ooo~000~OOO~000~ooo-----------

*CHP = Combined Heat and Power

Some further reading...
Maria Fremlin's Stag Beetle site: http://maria.fremlin.de/stagbeetles/index.html

People's trust for endangered species
http://ptes.org/get-involved/surveys/garden/great-stag-hunt/

Days on the Claise: http://loirenature.blogspot.fr/2014/10/stag-beetle-lucanus-cervus.html
and
http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.fr/2008/09/big-black-beautiful-beetles.html

6 comments:

Susan said...

Another fabulous post from the Aigronne team! Have you sent Maria a link? I'm sure she will be interested. Stanley has not trundled off into the wilderness I take it?

Tim said...

I let Stanley trundle off and find his own life...
he did so most determinedly!!
Towards the bief!!?
Given where I keep fining them, I am beginning to wonder about the male Stag Beetles' level of self-preservation...
I really am!

RestlessinFrance said...

FANTASTIC observation, photos and information about a spectacular creature in all its forms!

Amelia Frenchgarden said...

Very timely post for me as we are cutting up fresh timber for burning and I want to get the place tidied up but now I will remember to leave some for the stag beetles. I do not think they should be having too great a problem here as there are a lot of patches of woods where no-one collects the wood, they are not of commercial interest as they are too small. Amelia

GaynorB said...

Well done! A post which has obviously been a long time in the making. Fantastic pics illustrate the 'life and times' of Stanley so well. Really interesting and informative.

Tim said...

Thanks for all the kind comments...
Susan...
I have sent Maria the link and she has replied...
RiF...
just my enjoyment showing thro'...
Amelia...
glad I posted when I did then...
a log pile for "mini-beasts" is a very good way to be untidily-tidy....
or even tidily-untidy!!
Gaynor...
not so much a "long time in the making"...
more a long time in the taking!! 8o)