Springwatch: Lewisham

In the event of a nuclear holocaust, cockroaches are due to inherit the earth. Likewise, scorpions are always showing off their ability to be frozen and resuscitated with a blowtorch. Whatever the fate of the planet, the future of most mini-beasts looks assured. Not so, the British stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), which is apparently the panda of the insect world.

As visitors to the Horniman Museum are reminded, Lewisham is the front-line in the battle to save the UK's largest beetle (which grows up to 8cm).

The London Wildlife Trust explains:

"Numbers have declined since the 1940s and their UK distribution has contracted from a large swathe of southern England and Wales. Recent surveys suggest that they are now more restricted to the south-east, with concentrations along the Thames Valley, in north-east Essex/Suffolk, and the New Forest. Perhaps surprisingly London is one such ‘hot-spot’, and is nationally significant for the stag beetle populations it supports.

"The stag beetle appears to be significantly more common in the south and west of London, in areas such as Lewisham, Beckenham, Dulwich, Wandsworth, and Richmond.

"Their decline has been attributed to a number of factors, the primary one being the reduction of appropriate habitat - dead wood. The tidying up of woodlands, parks and gardens has led to the burning or chipping of dead wood, and stump-grinding of felled trees removes another vital source for the beetle."

Projects like this one, by award-winning Brockley enterprise Envirowork, are helping to create new habitat for the beetle, but Brockley gardeners can do their bit, by allowing dead wood to lie around at the end of their gardens, where the larvae (admittedly alien-looking things) grow.

Sightings of the beetle are usually made between May and August, which is mating season and also flying season - so if one of them comes buzzing in to site, try not to swat the poor, aerobatically-impaired creatures out of the sky.