Are these insects good or bad? Readers’ nature queries

Ethna Viney on scale insects, buzzards, corpse flower, and garden tits

Eye on nature: the scale insects on Daniel Johnson’s pear tree; they are sap-sucking pests

Eye on nature: the scale insects on Daniel Johnson’s pear tree; they are sap-sucking pests

 

I’m sending you a photograph of something on several branches on the pear tree in our greenhouse. I have hosed off most of them. Are they good or bad?
Daniel Johnson
Beaumont, Cork

They are scale insects – females here, with their eggs – which are sap-sucking pests.

I spotted seven buzzards in the sky overhead at once in south Wexford. Is this unusual?
Philip Connolly
Wexford

Buzzards don’t usually flock, but several may gather above a food source. They take a wide variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, rabbits, worms, frogs and carrion.

Eye on nature: the toothwort that Emer O’Shea saw; it’s also called corpse flower, because people thought it grew where bodies were buried
Eye on nature: the toothwort that Emer O’Shea saw; it’s also called corpse flower, because people thought it grew where bodies were buried

I spotted the weird plant in my photograph a few weeks ago, sprouting from the forest floor close to Lough Erne. It was about 2in (5cm) high and had no stem.
Emer O’Shea
Ballyshannon, Co Donegal

It is toothwort – also called corpse flower, because people thought it grew where bodies were buried. It is a perennial, parasitic plant found on the roots of trees, especially hazel and sycamore. It is widespread but rare, commoner in the north.

Watching the birds feeding at my mobile home in Wexford, I have no doubt that their colours are brighter and more vibrant than those of their cousins at the feeders in my garden in Blackrock.
Eithne Mackell
Blackrock, Co Dublin

Experts suggest that the compound that creates the bright yellow in tits’ feathers is also an antioxidant that urban birds divert from their feathers, to reduce stress and cell damage caused by pollutants in the air. Could be, or maybe the air is just cleaner by the sea.

Ethna Viney welcomes observations and photographs at Thallabawn, Louisburgh, Co Mayo, F28 F978 or by email at viney@anu.ie. Please include a postal address

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