Join the Great Stag Beetle hunt

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Pupils and teachers are to leave no stone unturned in their search for a fearsome-looking insect that may soon disappear from the dark corners of Britain.

With its tough shell and antler-like jaws, the stag beetle looks capable of defending itself against the hungriest of predators. But conservationists warn that the species is rapidly heading for extinction because of a human tendency to tidy up.

The beetles lay their eggs in rotting wood, which provides the larvae with a rich supply of food to last them the four years it takes to reach adulthood. Unfortunately for Britain's largest insect, humans tend to regard tree stumps, fallen logs and rotting fence posts as an eyesore rather than a tasty snack. The destruction of the beetles' habitat has seen numbers plummet.

But last week environment minister Michael Meacher announced The Great Stag Hunt - a national survey to record the locations of the remaining beetles and so help protect them.

Many schools have already pledged to hunt out any beetles that may be lurking in their grounds. Dr Valerie Keeble, of the People's Trust for Endangered Species, which is organising the survey, said: "Schools are ideally placed to help because many have bits of woodland that beetles love. Children love bugs, they're good at finding them and they're not frightened. We want to hear about any beetles they see at school, in their gardens or in the street. If you live in the right area you can see them everywhere."

Survey forms for the Great Stag Hunt are available on 0171 498 4533

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