Plume Moth Wildways Adventures

Just over a week ago, this little plume moth paid a visit to my living room.  He fluttered past me to rest on the firescreen and was spotted resting on the door the next morning.  Some people’s first instinct when they see something like this would be to squash it. Mine is always to photograph it and then try to identify it.

The incident made me think of some of the other visitors to my home and some of my previous homes.  I have to admit that some were not so welcome.  I would prefer it for instance if I had never learned to identify the common furniture beetle (also known as woodworm), wasps are not very welcome in my kitchen and like a lot of people I like rodents better when they remain outdoors, but I’ve had some great wildlife encounters indoors and these little visits can be a great way to learn more about some species of Irish Wildlife.

 

Spiders

As a child, I have to say that I didn’t number spiders among my best friends.  I certainly didn’t like to find one in my bedroom and would always call one of my parents to remove it until I got old enough and brave enough to attempt the removal myself.  This would be done using a glass and a piece of paper or thin cardboard. Spiders were never killed in our house so I didn’t grow up with the hysteria that often accompanies the sight of one of our many-legged friends or the instinct to squash them on sight.

Spider Wildways Adventures

As I grew older I began to notice the beauty of dew on a spider web and the beautiful colours and intricate patterns on some of the spiders themselves and as I began to work more with spiders and other invertebrates I learned to appreciate them even more.  I remember a Home Economics exam in Transition Year in school where there was a question related to pest control in the home.  I wrote as part of my answer that you shouldn’t remove spider webs as spiders controlled fly numbers and should be encouraged to come into the house.  I was quite sure at the time that that bit wasn’t going to get me any marks but even then I felt I had to rebel in some way against the attitude that everything should be sprayed and sterilised.

In an attempt to get to know spiders better, I began to name some of them.  Mabel lived in the bathroom of a house in Killarney and her favourite spot was in the corner just above the shower.  I didn’t want to get too close to her as she was a pretty large spider so I used to talk to her and ask her nicely to stay in the corner and not move around too much while I was there.  I have to say she was always very obliging.

 

Shield Bug

This Hawthorn Shield bug decided to drop onto my knee one day last January when I was sitting in my kitchen.. He (or she) had obviously been hibernating somewhere in the house and woke up. Hawthorn ShieldbugShield bugs got their name because their wings form the shape of a shield.  They are lovely to look at because of the beautiful colour and patterns on their wings and are quite harmless visitors as long as you handle them gently.  Shield bugs are sometimes called stink bugs because they release a strong smelling liquid when they are disturbed.  I’ve only smelled it once in my life and I’ve picked them up many times but the name is quite well deserved. If you want to identify shieldbugs, you can use the shieldbug swatch developed by the National Biodiverstiy Data Centre.  They also have swatches for bumblebees, butterflies and dragonflies.

 

Mayfly

This mayfly dropped by for a visit in June of last year and I found him in my kitchen.  Mayflies spend most of their lives in the water and their wings only emerge for a very short time, usually in May, so they can fly and mate on the wing before returning to the water to lay their eggs and die.  As it only had a few days at most to enjoy its wings and was unlikely to find a mate in my kitchen, I carried it outside and released it after the obligatory photo shoot. Mayfly in the kitchen

 

Birds

I’ve encountered seceral species of birds in my house and other buildings at various times.  I’ve had robins and sparrows land on tables outside restaurants to pick up the crumbs. Sometimes they fly in and get panicked trying to find their way out.

RobinShortly after we bought our house, I was in the kitchen one day and heard a strange noise in the range.  We hadn’t used it before and it took me a while to find the source of the noise but eventually on lifting up one of the plates, a starling flew out into the kitchen.  It had obviously fallen down the chimney and crawled through various openings inside to end up trapped.

During the bad snow in December 2010, my husband rescued a half frozen reed bunting from the garden when it dropped to the ground near him unable to fly any more.  After feeding it with some drops of sugar water and pieces of cheese, it began to revive and when he brought it outside, it was able to fly away.

 

Bats

Bats are creatures that have always fascinated me. I remember when I was quite young, my Dad calling us up to see a bat that had decided to rest on the wall of the garden shed he was building. Living in Killarney, I spent a lot of time watching bats and getting to know and love them and a few times I encountered them indoors.

Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) bats roosting

One of my funniest encounters with a bat came one night when I was living in a house in Beaufort. Having just come from a bat walk in work, I had taken home the bat detector for the night and decided to use the opportunity to see if there were any bats hunting along the hedge at the back of my house.  After about 20 minutes with no sound of a bat I gave up and came back inside the patio doors to find one flying around my kitchen.  Another time I was giving a talk to an LCVP group in Caslecomer when a bat decided to wake up and fly laps of the building.  I was very impressed with the students that there was no panic or hysteria but it was a bit difficult for them and for me to concentrate on what I was saying when it kept coming to circle around my head.

I was delighted when my son announced lately that he loves bats.  We’ll have to go bat spotting together in the springtime when they wake from hibernation and maybe when he gets a little older we can participate in the Daubenton’s bat survey with Bat Conservation Ireland.  I was involved a few years ago and really enjoyed it.  The amazing thing about bats is that they can often live quite happily in our attics without us even knowing they are there.  They make great house guests as they are quiet and don’t do any damage.

 

Garden Tiger Moth

This beautiful moth was an invited guest rather than a chance visitor.  In April of last year, having just attended a butterfly workshop in the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford, I went looking for caterpillars in the nettle patch in my garden and decided to raise one and see what it turned into.  I punched holes in the lid of a plastic takeaway container and also roughened the lid with sandpaper and placed him inside with some fresh nettles.  As the container had previously been used to store stewed apples in the freezer and still had the label on it, we christened the caterpillar Stewie D. Apple.  I fed him fresh nettles every day and cleaned out his box and we were all fascinated to see how quickly he grew over the next few weeks before spinning his cocoon among the nettles.  For four or five weeks the box remained there and the tighly curled nettles prevented us seeing what was inside but eventually one night we found Stewie the Garden Tiger Moth inside and released him outside the door. Garden Tiger Moth

Not all of the wild visitors to my home have been welcome but many have and these have provided me with great opportunities to study wildlife close up.  Occassionally the outdoors comes indoors but this can be a great opportunity to learn more about the fascinating world of nature. Unfortunately when I go online to look for information about various insects, the top search results will often lead me to a range or exterminators all willing to spray my home with a range of toxic chemicals, but there are also plenty of resources to help me discover more about my guests. Next time you have a small visitor to your home, why not take a closer look instead of reaching for the fly swatter.

If any of you have any positive stories about indoor wildlife encounters, I’d love to hear about them.  You can leave a comment below or on my Facebook page.

photo credit: Jessicajil via photopin cc