If you spotted a giant beetle in your North Ayrshire garden recently - watch out... it could be an endangered species.

Last year, a stag beetle was spotted in North Ayrshire for the first time. The sighting was incredibly unusual as they don’t usually live so far north.

And with that in mind, locals have been urged to take part in The Great Stag Hunt, which records all sightings of the rare beetle across the UK.

The study has been run by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) for over 20 years.

Spectacular adult stag beetles emerge from the ground in early summer and are easy to spot.

They’re the largest land beetle in the UK and the males are instantly recognisable with their renowned antler-like jaws.

Native to Britain, they’re found in urban and suburban gardens, parks, woodland edges and the wider countryside, and are often seen basking on sunlit walls and warm tarmac surfaces.

Most studies have found the largest concentration of stag beetle sightings in Hampshire and London. Now at least one has been spotted in North Ayrshire.

PTES say they can’t be sure whether it was transported there by accident or is part of an unknown population (which would be unlikely).

But just in case, local residents have been asked to keep an eye open and report any sightings of either adult beetles or larvae (large, white grubs often found in soil).

No previous experience is needed, and free online beetle and larvae ID guides are available to help volunteers tell the difference between stag beetles and other insects. 

Sadly, the removal of deadwood and tree stumps from woodlands, parks and gardens in recent years means there’s less habitat for stag beetles (and other species that rely on deadwood) to survive – and they’ve even become extinct in some European counties.

They’re also vulnerable to being crushed by traffic and humans, as they’re attracted to warm pavements and other tarmac surfaces.

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator at People’s Trust for Endangered Species said: “Stag beetles, like much of our wildlife, are under pressure, and understanding how the population is changing in Britain is a big part of ensuring their future.

"We need volunteers to become part of a national effort to monitor these amazing animals.

"The data collected by the Great Stag Hunt gives an insight into where stag beetles live and what the impact of climate change might be. It’s easy to take part – if you spot a stag beetle on your commute, on the school run, whilst walking your dog or whilst going to the pub, simply record it online.”

In 2022 a stag beetle was recorded in Cumbria for the first time, but like the recent Scottish record, more details are needed to know whether it was a one-off or not.

Male stag beetles have shiny black heads and thoraxes, with chestnut brown wing cases and can grow up to 75mm long. Their antler-like jaws may look intimidating but they’re harmless and are most often seen flying at dusk looking for mates.

Females are slightly smaller (between 30-50mm long), have smaller mandibles (jaws) und are usually seen on the ground looking for somewhere to lay their eggs.

To take part in the Great Stag Hunt and to find out more about stag beetles and PTES’ conservation work, visit stagbeetles.ptes.org