I lost my sweet pea to these strange-looking insects. What are they? Readers’ nature queries

Eithne Viney on swarming midges, capsid bugs, apple leafhoppers and dead man’s fingers

I lost my sweet pea this year to these strange looking insects. – Ellen Power, Waterford
They are capsid bugs, probably the common green capsid, about 5mm long.

I was driving along the back road to Bundoran in mid-September when I saw what I thought were about five or six long, thin plumes of smoke rising from branches at the top of trees. When I investigated I found it was flying insects. Why do they do that? – Ruth Murphy, Kilcock, Co Kildare
They were swarms of male midges which dance in mid-air sending out signals to females to join them. They swarm near a fixed point of reference such as a branch. So many midges once swarmed on Salisbury Cathedral (of recent note) that the fire brigade was called out because it looked as if the spire was on fire.

I retrieved this wasps' nest at the base of a large fern. It was rounded and about 20cm in diameter and the layers were vertical. – John McMahon, Clontarf, Dublin 3

I found these under long grass at the foot of a sorbus cultivar in our garden. They were oblong, up to two inches in length and black with white centres. Are they a fungus? – Fiona Simpson, Ballyclare ,Co Antrim
Yes, they are dead man's fingers, which are quite common.


My grandfather added a grease band to his apple tree. What are these insects that were caught on it? – Orlaith Kavanagh, Perrystown, Dublin 12
They are probably apple leafhoppers, Edwardsiana crataegi, which are a pest of apple trees, and 3-5mm long.

We have this garden spider outside our sitting room window. I think the colours and markings are beautiful. – Geraldine Beirne, Boyle, Co Roscommon

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.