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Family Lucanidae - Stag Beetles

Dorcus brevis - male Matchmaker - Lucanus capreolus - male - female Sword Fern Beetle - Platyceroides thoracicus Dorcus brevis minor male  - Dorcus brevis - male Ceruchus piceus - female Please identify beetle - Lucanus elaphus Lucanus mazama - female Stag Beetle - Ceruchus striatus - male
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
Suborder Polyphaga (Water, Rove, Scarab, Long-horned, Leaf and Snout Beetles)
Superfamily Scarabaeoidea (Scarab, Stag and Bess Beetles)
Family Lucanidae (Stag Beetles)
Other Common Names
Pinching Bugs
Explanation of Names
Lucanidae Latreille 1804
24 spp. in 8 genera of 3 subfamilies in our area, ~800 spp. in 109 genera worldwide(1)
8-60 mm
Medium to large, usually brownish or black beetles. Males of some species have spectacular jaws. Summary of family characteristics:
antennae 10-segmented, last 3-7 variously enlarged, often forming a club
antennae are jointed (geniculate), in most North American genera, distinguishing them from antennae of Passalidae
tarsal formula 5-5-5, tarsal claws equal in size
Antennae similar to those of scarabs but with a looser club

Detail of legs, including tarsal segments and claws, of Lucanus capreolus:
Males of some large species have spectacular jaws, most striking in Lucanus elaphus:

Larvae of C-shaped scarabaeoid type, with stridulating organ on hind legs, which are not reduced as in Passalidae. Anus longitudinal between 2 large, oval, often sclerotized (hard, dark) pads(2), unlike in related families

Illustrated Key to North American Genera adapted from(3)

1. Antennae elbowed at end of first segment --> 2

- Antennae not elbowed, but straight in its entirety. --> 6

2. Eye divided into upper and lower parts by a canthus (canthus short in Lucanus). --> 3

- Eyes without dividing canthus. --> 4

3. Elytra appearing smooth, punctures fine. --> Lucanus (4 spp.)

- Elytra with distinct stria and larger punctures, except in male majors of D. brevis. --> Dorcus (2 spp.)

4. Hind tibia expanded at apex and spurs wide. Body convex. Western NA. --> Platyceropsis (1 sp.)

- Hind tibia and spurs slender. Body not convex, but flattened. Western and Eastern NA. --> 5

5. Front of head broadly emarginate. --> Platycerus (5 spp.)

- Front of head not emarginate. --> Platyceroides (7 spp.)

6. Body short, oval. Elytra noticeably hairy. --> Nicagus (2 spp.)

- Body elongate. Elytra not hairy and with noticeable stria. --> 7

7. Body more cylindrical. Male with conspicuous horn, female with sharp tubercle. Mandibles small. nw. NA --> Sinodendron (1 sp.)

- More flattened. Neither sex having horn. Mandibles conspicuous. w. & e. NA --> Ceruchus (3 spp.)

see also(4)
Worldwide; most NA spp. associated with forested areas
Normally woodlands. One species found in Texas sand dunes. Others associated with driftwood along bodies of water. Larvae mostly in decaying wood.
Life Cycle
Larvae feed on decaying wood. Pupation takes place in a cell of gnawed wood fragments(2). Males often have enlarged jaws used for fighting.
In Europe, stag beetles are colonizing playgrounds and hiking trails covered with hardwood woodchips (Fremlin 2011)
See Also
Scarabaeidae (club plates can fold tightly)
Passalidae (antennae not elbowed)
Carabidae (antennae thread-like)
Trogossitidae (antennae not elbowed)
Print References
Grossi P.C., Paulsen M.J. (2009) Generic limits in South American stag beetles: taxa currently misplaced in Sclerostomus Burmeister (Coleoptera: Lucanidae: Lucaninae: Sclerostomini). Zootaxa 2139: 23-42 (Abstract)
Internet References
Fact sheet (Thomas 2005)(5)
Works Cited
1.Paulsen M.J. (2013) Annotated checklist of the New World Lucanidae (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea)
2.How to Know the Immature Insects
Hung-Fu Chu, Laurence K Cutkomp. 1992. Wm. C. Brown Publishers.
3.American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea
Arnett, R.H., Jr., M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley and J. H. Frank. (eds.). 2002. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL.
4.The stag beetles of Oklahoma (Coleoptera: Lucanidae)
Arnold D.C., Drew W.A. 1987. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 67: 27-29.
5.University of Kentucky Department of Entomology (2004-2010) Kentucky critter files