A male reddish-brown stag beetle (Lucanus capreolus) was wandering through the vegetable garden on Tuesday evening, presumably looking for rivals to duel. The mandibles of L. capreolus aren’t as large as those of the giant stag beetle (L. elaphus), which also lives in North Carolina, but this guy still put on an impressive threat display when I rudely prodded him with a finger.
The scientific names of L. capreolus and L. elaphus cleverly refer to the relative size of their antler-like mandibles. L. capreolus is named for the European roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, a species with modest antlers, while L. elaphus is named for the much larger red deer (Cervus elaphus). It is unclear to me why Linnaeus and Fabricius referred to European deer when naming North American beetles.
Despite my practice of leaving piles of rotting logs as habitat for beetle larvae and other small animals, this is the first stag beetle I have found in my garden and the first L. capreolus that I have ever seen. Once or twice I have found L. elaphus under street lights a few miles from our house, so I have some hope of attracting them to my mouldering beetle and termite palaces.