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Stag beetle, bees, creative ironwork and Autumn Social!

Date posted: Thursday 21st September 2017

Stag beetle, bees, creative ironwork and Autumn Social!

It’s been a month of summer holidays and no blog, but now school’s back, Autumn Social’s almost here and the nights are drawing in so back to the blogging board! Great excitement yesterday, as my plot neighbours lifted up a large block of wood that’s been on their plot for several years and discovered a treasure trove of stag beetle larvae! We were very concerned that inadvertently the larvae might have been disturbed so we tried to replace the wood gently, using canes to prop it slightly off the ground so as not to squash the larvae. We then decided it would be best to make small cavities in the soft earth to pop the larvae into; several of them had retracted into the rotting wood at the base of the block.

I’m going to report this finding to the London Wildlife Trust:
The stag beetle, Britain’s largest beetle, is globally-endangered and is rare or extinct across much of Britain, but they’re hanging on in London’s parks and gardens, especially in south London. Their larvae require the wood of tree stumps or fallen branches, which provide a food source as they fatten up for four to seven years, before emerging as adult beetles each year in June and July. The adults typically only live for a few weeks but are truly impressive, measuring up to 8cm long; the males sporting ferocious looking but harmless ‘jaws’ with which they fight other males.The male beetles can measure up to 8cm long and can be recognised by their distinctive antlers and clumsy, buzzing flight. Female stag beetles seldom fly, and whilst they are still large, they lack the males’ antlers. The adult beetles are harmless but face many dangers in their short lives, including predators such as crows, cats and foxes, as well as being crushed beneath car wheels or Londoners’ feet.
Stag beetles are most likely to be seen during June and July, and seem to prefer sultry summer evenings an hour or two before dusk. They were once known as thunder-beetles, as they could be seen flying before storms.
London Wildlife Trust has been asking the public to record sightings of stag beetles via their website, and has received over 800 sightings this year, with the majority of reports coming from south London. This has been one of the ‘best’ years for records since the Trust started collecting stag beetle sightings in 1997, and further helps to identify priorities for their conservation. Mathew Frith, director of conservation at London Wildlife Trust said: “The skewed distribution of stag beetles across London still isn’t fully understood, so the more sightings we can record the better. Beetle friendly sites can be found all over London, and yet we get the majority of our reports from gardens, parks and streets in the south. We do know that the beetles can be quite site-specific as the females rarely take to the air, so their dispersion is slow and can be constrained by rivers as well as roads, buildings and other artificial obstacles. What is very obvious though is that many Londoners are awed by this amazing animal and have shared their excitement with the Trust. This gives us confidence that efforts to protect and conserve their habitats – woodlands with lots of dead wood – will continue to secure public support.”
If you have seen a stag beetle in London you can share your sighting with the Trust, just visit www.wildlondon.org.uk/stag-beetle-survey

Autumn is spider time. This magnificent female was hanging out in our front entrance pollinators flower bed, feeding up and getting ready to lay her young.

The bumbles, honey and solitary bees are making the most of the late flowering plants – the lovely violet flowers of this large, self seeded Shoo fly plant are attracting much attention. Two bees are one too many in this case – one in, another one trying to get in, then a squash up before one emerged out very annoyed!

A plotholder has been recycling metal and old tools to create this attractive feature on his plot – creativity and horticultural know-how hand in hand!

The Autumn Social this Sunday is all organised and planned, clipboards at the ready for the Produce show, Pumpkin and Scarecrow competitions – fiercely contested now, but without the dark dealings at the Archers Flower and Produce Show last week (we hope!). Our front entrance bed is still looking good so hope the guest invited to the Social stop for a look! Almost all of the smallest holes in the bee post have residents!

If you know of a news story which you think might be of interest to plotholders please send an email to let us know: website@paddocks-allotments.org.uk