Eye on Nature
Your notes and queries for Ethna Viney
I’m a beekeeper. Recently I opened a hive that had been empty during the summer and found this inside. I wonder is there an insect hibernating there? Simon Ó Cróinín, Ráth Chairn, Co na Mí
It’s the nest of the patchwork leaf-cutter bee. Each bundle of leaves is a cell that contains an egg and pollen to feed the larva, which will pupate over winter and the bee will emerge in spring.
As I watched a documentary about vampires I heard scratching at the window. It was one of my visiting foxes harvesting midges from the window pane. Dolly O’Reilly, Sherkin Island, Co Cork Mountaineering Ireland had its autumn gathering in Clonbur, and while hillwalking on Maumtrasna, Co Galway, we found this nest, which we thought might have been home to a family of meadow pipits.
Helen Lawless, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 It does look like a meadow pipit’s nest.
Can you shed some light on the floss covering our garden? John Harrington, Coonagh, Limerick
They are the sheet webs of tiny money spiders, linyphia spp, which start out as domed webs and get flattened by air loaded with dew.
I have been supporting a flock of sparrows and every time they come to feed a couple of
Far left: poisonous mushroom, and a meadow pipit’s nest. Above: sheet webs of tiny money spiders, nest of the patchwork leaf-cutter bee; and (left) a visiting fox chaffinches accompany them, returning to perch close to them on the garden wall. Pat Kearney, Claremorris, Co Mayo
This may have been an instance of cross-feeding, where the chaffinch nest was close to the sparrow nest and the sparrow parents responded to the nestlings’ call. Or a case of orphaned chaffinch nestlings adopted by the sparrows.
On Mount Leinster I came across this yellow-capped mushroom. Catherine Rice, Jenkinstown, Co Kilkenny
It’s the red-stalked bolete, also called the bitter beech bolete, and is poisonous. It has a symbiotic relationship with beech and oak.