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Family Lucanidae - Stag Beetles

stag beetle - Platycerus virescens - female Stag Beetle - Ceruchus piceus Platyceroides agassii - female Giant Stag Beetle? - Lucanus capreolus - female Dorcus brevis (Say) - Dorcus brevis - female Sinodendron rugosum  - Sinodendron rugosum - male Dorcus parallelus - female Dorcus parallelus (Say) - Dorcus parallelus - female
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, ending in a club, but plates cannot be held tightly together

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 are C-shaped, like those of scarabs and related families, see:
Stridulating organ present on hind (metathoracic) legs of larvae, which are not reduced as in Passalidae. Anus longitudinal between 2 large, oval, often sclerotized (hard, dark) pads at end of body (2). This last character differentiates them from scarabs and 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 N.A. --> Platyceropsis (1 sp.)

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

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

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

6. Short, oval beetles. Elytra noticeably hairy. --> Nicagus (2 spp.)

- More elongate beetles. 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.)
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.
"Stag beetles are colonizing playgrounds and hiking trails covered with successive layers of hardwood woodchips" (more...
See Also
Scarabaeidae (club plates can fold tightly)
Carabidae (antennae thread-like)
Trogossitidae (antennae not elbowed)
Passalidae (antennae not elbowed)
Print References
P.C. Grossi & M.J. Paulsen. 2009. Generic limits in South American stag beetles: taxa currently misplaced in Sclerostomus Burmeister (Coleoptera: Lucanidae: Lucaninae: Sclerostomini). Zootaxa 2139: 23-42
M.J. Paulsen & D. C. Hawks. 2008. Platyceroidini, a new tribe of North American stag beetles (Coleoptera: Lucanidae: Lucaninae). Insecta Mundi 0058: 1-2.
Works Cited
1.Annotated checklist of the New World Lucanidae (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea), by M.J. Paulsen
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.