Are the gray squirrel rumors true? Questions about the nature of readers

Gray squirrels are great to watch, but is the rumor that they don’t hibernate true? If not, why? – Edward Barr, Dublin
You must not listen to rumours. Red and gray squirrels collect and store nuts in early autumn to eat during the winter as they do not hibernate and will need these food reserves. Hedgehogs and bats, both carnivores, hibernate as there is no food available for them during the winter. They can lower their metabolic rate so they can survive on the fat stored in their bodies. Squirrels can’t do that.

Ruby tiger moth caterpillar

Ruby tiger moth caterpillar

I saw this caterpillar in Moreland’s Meadow, where it was well hidden in the grass… I thought it was a burr until it moved! What is that? – Paul Aiken, Belfast
It is most likely the caterpillar of the ruby ​​tiger moth, which feeds on a variety of plants (including some grasses) and appears at this time of year. It could also be a yellow ermine, but ruby ​​tiger caterpillars have black heads.

ten point ladybug

ten point ladybug

This little ladybug landed on a plastic plate outside recently. Google Lens indicates that it is a gray ladybug. Can you identify please? Is it a baby ladybug without pigment? It was about 5mm in diameter. – Niall O’Carroll, Co Kerry
Gray ladybugs are native to North America and do not occur in Ireland. This little one is a 10-spot ladybug that has overwintered as an adult and has now emerged to feast on aphids in her garden. We have 19 native species of ladybugs.

Ants in the willow

Ants in the willow

I saw these little ants running up and down the willow tree – so much effort for what? I wrote to Michael Viney about this phenomenon on May 2, 2021. He said they are after sap, but I don’t see sap on offer. – Paul Dunne, Co Galway
Ah, but you’re not an ant! Ants feed on sweet sap and honeydew excreted by aphids to give the energy they need. Willows contain sweet sap and ants are collecting the small amounts that seep through the bark. That’s what Michael was referring to.

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