The life cycle of a stag beetle biology lesson for kids: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grades biology lesson.
Insects are everywhere, and there are so many species that it is hard to keep track. Today, we will focus on the stag beetle, which, like many insects, goes through an amazing change as it grows up. This change, as it goes from its larval (baby) stage to adult stage is called metamorphosis.
Like most insects, the stag beetle starts out as an egg. It is a small and cream-colored, and hatches about three weeks after the mother stag beetle laid it under ground near rotting wood. When these larvae (singular: larva) are ready to hatch, they eat through the outer layer of the egg, and come into the world. When they just hatch, they are almost pure white, and very small, just a few millimeters long. They look like little worms with legs near their heads.
After the larvae hatch, they stay in the dirt, and eat the rotting wood, getting bigger and bigger over time. Their heads turn a dark red, almost brown color, and can get as big as three inches long, and very round. The larva grows for five or six years. There’s just one problem: Their skin doesn’t stretch very much to grow with them. So, the larvae have to shed their skin four times, so that they can grow. Every time they’re ready to shed, new skin grows underneath the old. When they leave the old skin behind, and they grow inside the new skin until they need to repeat the process all over again.
When the larva finishes growing, it is ready to form a pupa. In early fall, its skin turns papery and goes almost completely still as its body starts changing on the inside. This is the metamorphosis we mentioned before. Even in this stage, you can tell the males and females apart; males have bigger mouthparts than the females.
Five to six weeks later, the pupa breaks open and the adult stag beetle crawls out. They look very different now. They aren’t long and worm-like anymore, but look like real beetles. They have dark exoskeletons, shells-like armor that protect their backs, and even have wings! The males are bigger use their big mouthpieces to wrestle each other, and they use their wings fly around in the summer, looking for mates. The females don’t fly as much, but they can, too, if they need to.
Although they spend so many years eating rotting wood under the ground as larvae, the adults can’t eat solid food. They survive on fat in their bodies, sap, and soft fruits. Their job as adults is to mate so that more babies can hatch. After they mate in the summer, the females dig down into the ground the lay their eggs, the new generation of stag beetles.
This life cycle of the stag beetle is a good example of metamorphosis, with the larvae and adults looking and behaving very different. This is the life of insects!