is the largest European beetle – males can reach up to 9 cm in length (including their mandibles), while females are smaller with inconspicuous mandibles. Male mandibles are not intended for hunting or defence, but as a weapon in battles with other males that they undergo in the crowns of old trees. After mating, females lay eggs in rotting trunks, cavities, and roots of old and massive trees, mainly oaks, but also other species of deciduous trees. The larvae hatch from the eggs and take up to five years to develop, growing up to 10 cm in size. The larvae make a cocoon from rotten wood and their droppings and pupate.
Adult individuals can be seen from the end of May until about August, so they live only a few weeks and die after mating. Stag beetles live in open canopy middle deciduous forests with large trees. Nowadays, we can find them mainly in chateau parks, avenues, gardens, and on the banks of ponds, where they look for old dying trees, their trunks and stumps. These places are reminiscent in their structure of wood pastures; these were very common in the past but are now almost non-existent in our landscape, and therefore the beetles are pushed into the vicinity of towns and villages. In the Czech Republic, the stag beetle occurs mainly in South and Central Moravia and in the warmest parts of Central, South, and North Bohemia.
Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne)
is another species of open canopy middle deciduous forests. It is a striking, large butterfly, whose adults fly from late April to early July only on sunny days. After mating, the females look for places in partial shade where fumewort (Corydalis solida) grows. There they lay eggs in conifer leaf litter and dry leaves. In the following spring, caterpillars hatch from the eggs; they feed on fumewort before it flowers and then pupate. In May and June of the same year, an adult butterfly emerges from the pupa. Clouded Apollos cannot survive in a dense forest, even if carpets of fumewort grow there. They look only for sunny deciduous forests or their edges, which must be sufficiently open. A necessary condition is the connection of open canopy middle forests to flowering meadows, where butterflies mate and look for nectar plants. Clouded Apollo has already become extinct in Bohemia and survives in only a few sites in Moravia. It often lives under power lines, where self-seeding woody plants are regularly cleared.
Large blue, dusky large blue, and scarce large blue (Maculinea arion, M. nausithous, and M. teleius)
The project is also focused on three types of blue butterfly which have a complex development cycle and are tied to meadows and pastures in our landscape. The first species is the large blue, our largest blue butterfly. Part of the White Carpathians and Beskydy, especially in the Valašsko region, are one of the last places where relatively viable and stable populations occur. Butterfly caterpillars live mainly on thyme and oregano. Then they descend to the ground, where they are found by workers ants of the Myrmica genus, who take them to their nest in the ground and take care of them. However, the caterpillars are not as innocent as they might seem, as they feed on ant larvae. Large blue lives on dry, south-facing extensive pastures with a disrupted sward. The sheep that graze here avoid thyme, which they do not like. Ants also like such pastures. The butterfly needs more areas with ants and thyme to survive in the landscape. It is proven that some of the populations become extinct here and there, either due to disease or bad weather, and it is necessary that there are more such small micro populations nearby. But in time, butterflies from a neighbouring population can re-colonize a pasture abandoned for a short time. The complex development cycle, decline in grazing, and encroachment of shrubs onto pastures have brought this species to the brink of extinction. The change in management and the decline of this species is closely related to the disappearance of traditional farmers, which we can still encounter in the Valašsko region.
The other two target butterfly species, which are also dependent on Myrmica ants, have a similar development cycle. They are dusky large blue and scarce large blue. Unlike the previous species, they need great burnet for the development of caterpillars, which grows on wet meadows. The causes of the loss of these butterflies are also known: the wet meadow habitats with its rare inhabitants suffered as a result of improvement of the landscape and drainage of wetlands.
This species is the rarest in our project: it requires a mosaic of open canopy middle forests, gently cut meadows with nectar and a food plant – broom (Chamaecytisus nigricans, Ch. ratisbonensis and Ch. supinus; in White Carpathians Ch. virescens), and places left uncut for at least one year. And all this on large areas. It has been missing in the Czech Republic since 2010 and in Slovakia, according to the latest estimates, its population is about to collapse. It is disappearing even in Romania, where until recently there were large populations.