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Colony of stag beetles discovered at St Martins Priory in Canterbury

By Alex Claridge

A colony of Britain’s largest beetles has been discovered living in Canterbury.

The stag beetles – which can grow up to five inches long – were found in St Martin’s Priory off the North Holmes Road and are distinctive because of their size and large pincers.

Canterbury Christ Church University, which owns the priory, uncovered them during a survey of its open spaces.

A colony of stag beetles has been discovered in Canterbury
A colony of stag beetles has been discovered in Canterbury

Staff and students from the university’s School Human and Life Sciences department working on the BioBlitz project found the beetles among rotting wood.

Dr Joe Burman, a member of the school’s ecology research group, has been involved in projects in Sweden and the UK related to the conservation of beetles whose larvae live on dead wood.

"It is really exciting to find that we have a thriving colony of stag beetles on our campus" - Dr Joe Burman

He said: “It is really exciting to find that we have a thriving colony of stag beetles on our campus, and that this is the result of years of sympathetic management by our excellent grounds team.”

The find was reported to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, which works to protect threatened wildlife. Prof Peter Vujakovic, chairman of the university’s biodiversity working group, said: “Over-zealous clearing of old dead and decaying wood is depriving these animals of a home for their larval stage.

“The larvae spend several years developing underground in rotting wood, and only emerge as adults for a few months during the summer to breed.

“This find is an important indication that we are managing our site appropriately.”

The BioBlitz involved recording both common and rare species and submitting its findings to the national BioBlitz project, which is being run by Bristol Natural History Consortium.

One of the stag beetles found at St Martin's Priory
One of the stag beetles found at St Martin's Priory

Prof Vujakovic went on: “The university’s bioversity initiative, to nurture the habitats within the Canterbury Unesco World Heritage Site and its surrounding buffer, is an important part of our sustainability strategy.

“As well as the stag beetles, we were able to record a range of plants, mammals, insects and amphibians on the site and the adjacent Saxon church yard of St Martin’s Church.”

Visit www.bnhc.org.uk/bioblitz for more information.

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