Good thing I swerved out of the way. I could have gotten a flat tire.
This is Lucanus cervus, the best-known stag beetle and the largest terrestrial insect in Europe. The male uses its horn-like mandibles in combat much like a deer, thus its name. Some have been known to grow to more than 12cm (about 5in), but most reach slightly less than half that when fully mature. The photogenic one above was about 7cm.
The male’s mandibles do give it a certain intimidating look, but it’s just that – they’re too weak to do any harm. But while it’s not threatening, it is threatened. From the UK National History Museum:
[quote]However, it is most commonly known for its rapid population distribution decline in the last 40 years. Habitat loss and landscape fragmentation and in turn the loss of dead wood habitats have directly contributed to this fact. Other factors such as road-kill and predation by common predators such as foxes, cats, and magpies have also impacted on its decline.
In many European countries as well as the UK, the stag beetle has protected status. It is listed on Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive and Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and countryside Act 1981. It is also a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species (BAP).[/quote]
I did my part. I spotted him last night crossing a road near Sarsko, a village in the hills about 17km southeast of Ljubljana. Two cars approached as we was making his way across; I politely directed traffic until he reached the other side and disappeared into the foilage. 🙂