Tag Archives: larva

Some wildlife from Buckroney Nature Reserve

A Common Blue butterfly perched on young bracken.
A male Common Blue butterfly perched on young bracken.

Buckroney is unusual in that it is exclusively a sand dune nature reserve, and for this reason has very unique wildlife. The Common Blue (Polydommatus icarus) is a small but colourful butterfly, and the males will attack any flying insect entering their territory if it looks like it might be a rival butterfly. They will pretty much have a go at anything, even a bit of tissue waved at them. Like the one in the photo they like to perch on tall stems so they can survey the land.

Dunes have uniqe plants too, such as the beautiful low-growing and extremely spiky Burnet Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia), which usually has cream yellow blooms but in places has pink or reddish, probably due to chemicals in the certain areas.

A thicket of Burnet Roses. Beautiful plants which also provide important nesting areas for some bird species.
A thicket of Burnet Roses. Beautiful plants which also provide important nesting sites for some bird species.

In many areas the sand is exposed, and this keeps the temperatures high in the dunes. Grasses tend to grow thinly, and in some places you find peculiar-looking ball-like objects. These strange things are actually a species of puffball fungus. In this case it is the Brown Puffball (Bovista nigrescens).

The Brown Puffball doesn't look all that brown, yet. But soon it will. It's about the same size as a cricket ball.
The Brown Puffball doesn’t look all that brown, yet. But soon it will. It’s about the same size as a cricket ball.

But for me the most interesting find on the dunes was a collection of about forty little mounds of sand with holes in their tops making them seem like volcanoes. I knew they had to belong to bees, but when a bee did show up it was tiny, but it entered the little mound. This species, which was new to me, is one of the Lasioglossum bees, which are a type of Sweat Bee. In the tropics they cause great annoyance by drinking sweat from people’s skins – but at least they don’t bite! However, in Ireland they are not a problem at all.

A tiny female Sweat Bee perched on her nest mound. She stocks her nest with pollen for a larva to feed on over the summer, autumn and winter months, until it emerges as an adult next spring.
A tiny female Sweat Bee perched on her nest mound. She stocks her nest with pollen for a larva to feed on over the summer, autumn and winter months, until it emerges as an adult next spring.

 

 

The Funny-looking Creatures in Every Pool of Water

Almost certainly due to last year’s good warm, sunny summer  and the following mild winter (and the warm spring with decent April and May showers) almost ever pool of water, no matter how shallow or stagnant or ridiculously small has these funny little creatures in them:

Ever get the feeling you're being watched?
Ever get the feeling you’re being watched? The stalks sticking from their rear-ends through the surface of the water are tubes allowing them to breathe air.

But what are they? Well, bearing in mind that they are very small despite how they appear in this photo, these are mosquito larvae. Wicklow, just like every other place on earth that has decent rainfall, is home to quite a few species of mosquitoes and many smaller midges too. They don’t all bite. Mosquito larvae are mainly two kinds – Culicine mosquitoes like these, and the more notorious Anopheline mosquito larvae, which grow up to spread malaria.

Mosquito larvae I waited to see what species of Culicine mosquitoes would hatch from these larvae and found they all seem to be a very common species, Culex pipiens, known to Americans and Canadians as the Northern House Mosquito. Fortunately they are not agressive pursuers of human blood, but they can bite us and in rare circumstances spread disease. However, they feed millions and millions of other species, including birds such as swallows, swifts and house martins, not to mention bats. The mosquito larvae are filter feeders, filtering water, and technically should be considered as plankton. In order to transform into adult mosquitoes they first turn into this strange looking thing:

A mosquito chrysalis - but it can still kick its tail to evade predators.
A Culicine mosquito pupa – it can kick its tail to evade predators.

So keep an eye out for these fascinating little creatures which are the basis of the foodchain for most of the animals in Wicklow.