Is this a common native spider? Readers’ nature queries

Ethna Viney on worker wasps, sea urchin shells and sunburned potatoes

Hobo spiders are found in grassy places and under stones.

Hobo spiders are found in grassy places and under stones.

 

Is this spider in a pile of logs a common native spider? It’s about the size of a thumbnail. – Thomas Treanor, Templeogue, Dublin 6W
It looks like the hobo spider, Tegenaria agrestis, the same group as the house spider but found in grassy places and under stones.

Sea urchin skeleton found on the south beach in Skerries.
Sea urchin skeleton found on the south beach in Skerries.

While walking on the south beach in Skerries I found this shell, now cleaned out. What is it? – Kieran Brannigan, Skerries, Co Dublin
It’s a sea urchin skeleton. When alive in the sea it was covered with spines.

Potatoes exposed to light or sunburned are toxic.
Potatoes exposed to light or sunburned are toxic.

I recently grew potatoes for the first time. When preparing them to eat I noticed this curious pattern on the inside and dark skin areas on the outside. Out of caution I did not eat them. – Brenda King, Mount Merrion, Dublin
Your potatoes have been exposed to light or sunburned. This happens when they are not earthed up deeply enough and have pushed through the surface of the soil to the light. They are toxic and should not be eaten.

During the autumn there was a very obvious wasps’ nest in the ivy on our wall. With the colder weather there are no signs of activity. Do wasps hibernate or die and is there likely to be renewed activity in the spring? – Joe Kirwan, Ashbourne, Co Meath
Worker wasps die in autumn. When work in the nest has finished, they go on a spree of looking for sweet substances and can become a nuisance to people. The new queens go into hibernation and emerge in spring to build new nests and start a new brood. They never return to old nests.

Please remind your readers to provide a fresh supply of water for the birds when their water sources are likely to be frozen. – Vanessa Drew, Ballyroney, Co Down

Fox and kingfisher.
Fox and kingfisher.

This photo of a fox and a kingfisher was taken by Donal Ring along the Dodder.

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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