Eye on Nature

Your notes and queries for Eanna Ní Lamhna

I saw this insect in a stream in Connemara. It seems to glow at its joints; is this a reflection of sunlight? — John Fitzgerald, Galway

These are two mating pond-skaters. The glow is not a reflection of their blissful state but is caused by the sunlight shining upon them.

I found this unusual moth on a sandy top of steps leading to the harbour — Anne Bacon

This is a beautiful photograph of the white ermine moth. It flies at night around now and its hairy black caterpillars feed on dandelions and docks.

We found this in our garden. We believe it is a fossil, but what kind and to what period does it belong? — Joseph Butler Kilkenny

It is an excellent example of a crinoid stem fossil. This is the stem of a marine animal often called a “sea lily”. The stem looks like a series of buttons attached to the sea floor. The photograph shows an almost 3D perspective of the stem. The fossil is about 350 million years old from the early Carboniferous period. Sea lily crinoids still grow today at the bottom of deep oceans.

There were a few of these buzzing around an old tree stump. They were about 1cm long. Are they some kind of hoverfly? — Eamon Lenihan, Co Cork

No. This photograph is of a solitary wasp species, a female mason wasp. It builds a mud cell, often against rocks or walls, and puts small caterpillars inside which it has stung and paralysed. It then lays an egg on the caterpillars and seals up the nest. It builds several such nests which are difficult to see once the mud dries out.

I found this eggshell near the Glen Strand in Wicklow. We think it might be a razorbill egg. It’s so cool! — Taj Fitzsimons (7), Wicklow

I am sure that the razorbill, whose only egg was stolen by a marauding crow, didn’t think it was a bit cool.

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Éanna Ní Lamhna

Éanna Ní Lamhna

Éanna Ní Lamhna, a biologist, environmentalist, broadcaster, author and Irish Times contributor, answers readers' queries in Eye on Nature each week