How should this invasive lady be treated? Readers’ nature queries

Éanna Ní Lamhna on invaders, weird mushrooms and a spectacular caterpillar

Harlequin ladybird

Harlequin ladybird

 

This ladybird was on an apple tree in Donnybrook, Dublin. Is it a harlequin ladybird or some other? And, given that harlequins are an invasive species, what does one do if one finds one? – Dermot Stokes
One squishes invasive harlequins if one is really sure that’s what they are. They eat our native ladybirds among other things. The harlequin is a very variable species and has several colour forms, including black with four red spots and orange with 15-21 spots. But it is the only ladybird with a broad ridge running across the ends of the hard wing covers, and this one has these.

Caterpillar of the knot grass moth
Caterpillar of the knot grass moth

We found this unusual caterpillar in the back garden. We’ve never seen anything like it; can you help us identify it? – Beth, Sophia and Jack Love
It is the very spectacular caterpillar of the rather dull knot grass moth, which, while it may indeed munch on knot grass, is also partial to lots of other plants, including docks, plantains, wild strawberry and even rhubarb.

Dead man’s fingers fungus
Dead man’s fingers fungus

I spotted these growing in a tree stump in my parents’ back garden in Blackrock, Co Dublin. They don’t look like any mushroom I’ve ever seen. What are they and are they poisonous? – Dan Killeen
My mycology lecturer in UCD, Hubert Fuller, tells me that it is an ascomycete fungus called dead man’s fingers. It is common and typically found in gardens/parks growing on rotting beech stumps. Not dangerous, but inedible.

Leaf attacked by silk button gall wasps
Leaf attacked by silk button gall wasps

This leaf fell off our oak tree and I’m interested to know what has affected it. – Rosemary Lindsay, Greystones
It has been attacked by the silk button gall wasp. These tiny wasps lay their eggs in the veins of oak leaves, causing these hemispherical galls, which contain the grubs, to form.

Stick insect
Stick insect

This lovely picture of a stick insect in a neighbour’s garden was taken by Patrick Maher.

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