26 Sept 2022

Wild About Wildlife: The buzz of spring is in the air

Wild About Wildlife: The buzz of spring is in the air

In Ireland, we have around 1,500 species of moth, compared to around 35 species of butterfly

WE WERE having our mid-morning break when one of my work colleagues showed me a photo on his phone. He had been cleaning up his polytunnel in preparation for planting tomatoes and salads. As he unwrapped an old carpet he found a very colourful moth.
He quickly took a photo and re wrapped the carpet and left the moth alone. He was planning to send me on the photo but is was a far more engaging conversation over a cup of tea and a few biscuits.
When I saw the photo I knew straight away that it was a herald moth. I have found them hibernating before in my shed but they were in tightly packed newspapers.
Their caterpillars feed on the leaves of willow, aspen as the moth is common where these trees grow. Its main habitats are hedgerows, gardens, parks and riverbanks.
The adults have a sweeter taste and feed on the flowers of ivy and the juices from overripe blackberries and raspberries. Their main flight is from June to November.
They like to hibernate in cool dark places and in the wild will use caves and manmade structures like sheds and barns. Every house has a shed of some sort and this is where they like to sleep the months away.
They are attracted to light, according to the moth books, but I have never found one before in my moth trap.
March is a great month for moths and the first real flush take flight from the dotted border and March moth. There is also a bewildering collection of brown moths and identifying these can test the patience of even the most seasoned on a frosty morning.
With all the moths flying it won’t be long before the bats emerge to take advantage of this bountiful food source.
While creatures of the night are stirring the daytime is not been neglected.
On a beautiful warm day I was walking up to the canteen and checking the potted plants for any bees. This was a day for taking off layers and not putting them on.
There are several heathers growing in containers and these are one of the earliest sources of pollen and nectar for emerging insects. There was nothing on the pink flowered heather but it is growing in a shaded position.
As I neared the white variety I could hear an audible buzzing and I saw several honeybees buzzing around. This heather was in full sun and it shows the importance of location when trying to attract pollinators.
When I reached the flowers the rest of the swarm lifted but there was no aggression. I think there were more interested in feeding and also a little docile after a long winter. I also dint react and just stood perfectly still and enjoyed one of the most amazing sights of early spring.
The heather was the perfect top of station and I could see other honeybees heading off on foraging trips. The catkins on the willows that grow along the field path are just out and these are also an important source of food for pollinators. The sun also warms their tiny bodies and this means they use less energy heating up and all of their energy can go on flying.

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