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Caring For Wild Animals

Please note that many species of mammals, birds, invertebrates etc... are protected under law and that, even with the best of intentions, only someone holding a relevant licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service should attempt the care of these animals.  For full details, please click here to read the NPWS Checklist of protected & rare species in Ireland.  If you are concerned about a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife ranger - click here for details.

Every week, we get a HUGE amount of queries for our wildlife panellists via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, text message and phone call, and unfortunately we don't have time to address all of these on air. So here are just some of your questions, with answers from our experts!

And if you have a question that you would like one of our experts to answer, e-mail mooney@rte.ie, tweet us @NatureRTE, or send us a message via Facebook (www.facebook.com/rtenature)

Dr. Richard Collins, Mooney Goes Wild panellist & ornithologist

Dr. Richard Collins

Derek, following a discussion on Lyric FM yesterday, do swallows breed in South Africa? Gerry  
Swallows don’t breed in South Africa. Most the world’s landmass is in the northern hemisphere. Birds have more room and resources to breed there so they move northwards to do so.

Lovely, great, super, Mooney Goes Wild at a proper hour, missed you all! I have got a robin in my garden and for almost a year, he's had very badly ruffled feathers. What could be wrong with him? 
Robins, like all songbirds, grow a new set of feathers at this time of year. They look scruffy and unwell when doing so. This is particularly true of young birds changing into their first adult plumage.

Hi Derek, four buzzards moved into the wood beside my house last Autumn. Now the herons, blackbirds, magpies, wagtails, jays, thrushes and pheasants have disappeared from the wood and our garden. Is this the work of the buzzards? Regards Avril
Birds of many species will mob predators, such as buzzards, trying to drive them off. They won’t roost in trees, however, if they know a bird of prey is present. 

Do herring gulls eat bees? Pat
Herring gulls will eat almost anything but bees have not been recorded in the diet. When ants swarm in high summer, herring gulls wheel high in the sky catching them.  

Hi Derek and team, great to hear ye again! We spotted a hen harrier in Knockmealdowns two days in row. Are they making comeback or just migatory? Thanks again for a great program! From Damian in Kilkenny
Hen harriers have not been recorded breeding in Knockmealdowns recently, but there have been sightings in the general area during summer and winter.

Hi Derek, a simple question: where do birds go at night when they are not nesting? Thanks, Frances
What birds do at night depends on the species. Many songbirds perch on tree branches. Wrens gather together in a hole in a tree or wall. Starlings and pigeons will use buildings as well as trees and bushes for their roosts. Swifts and house martins sleep on the wing.
 
Magpies are destroying our local small bird population.  Can anything be done to keep them away? They have ripped nests apart .We used to have lots of blackbirds nesting in our avenue but they were all destroyed by magpies. Any tips please? Thanks, Mary
Don’t blame the magpie for killing small birds. We attract birds to our gardens where there are few hiding places for youngsters just out of the nests. These youngsters are exposed like Christians in the amphitheatre in ancient Rome. Magpies are opportunists. Stop mowing the lawn, let the natural vegetation return and the small birds will stand a better chance.

Eanna ni Lamhna, Mooney Goes Wild panellist & entomologist

Eanna ni Lamhna

Every night, I have approx. 100 slugs on a section of concrete on the footpath outside my back door in my dwelling house. What causes this and how can I get rid of them for good? Thanks...
Slugs come out at night to feed, and this is what they are doing. They may be enroute to parts of your garden or they may be feeding on the algae on the concrete. Go out with a bucket and gloves and pick them all up. Beer tossed into the bucket will kill them and you can leave them safely for the birds next day. Do this every night for a week and that should put a dent in the population all right. Or indeed pray for dry weather which they don't like!

Derek, does your speaker on mosquitos know if ticks in Ireland can transmit Lyme disease and if so, could you please alert people about this. Thank you, from Annette
Yes, ticks in Ireland in areas where there are deer can carry Lymes disease. You should not walk barefoot or in shorts in long grass in these areas and examine yourself for ticks after walking in long grass in these areas.

Please tell me is it possible to buy a machine to deter flies. We are spending time in a caravan in Spain soon.  Thanks, from two OAPs!
Flies don't like windy conditions, so a fan would be good and it would keep you cool too.

Can you confirm that the warble or gadfly is still around in Ireland, despite the fact that it was supposedly eradicated 40 years ago. I have seen it buzzing around my cattle who then take off with their tails straight up in the air. Martin in Tipperary
If you have seen it buzzing around your cattle then it is still around - in your area at least. Your agricultural pharmacy should be able to advise you on what to use to protect your cattle.

I once found a ladybird who couldn't fly because his wings weren't coming out properly, do you know what could have caused this? Malcolm on Inisbofin
Probably some parasite living on the ladybird.

My son works with the forestry and is persecuted with flies etc... constantly if weather is at all warm. They especially attack his face. It's a job where he perspires a lot, so although he has used all the over-the-counter repellents and home remedies nothing, has worked as he probably sweats it off.  He seems particularly prone to them and any ideas to help would be greatly appreciated.  Also, where might I get a net or similar for over his head, like beekeepers wear, or would it be strong enough as he often has to cut down thick gorse etc... Thank you! Philomena
See tips below in how to deter mosquitoes. Maybe eating loads of garlic would help. You can get a head net to protect you from insects in the outdoor sports shops, or you could run one up for him from a veil or an old net curtain. It is just a bag of this material that he wears over his head and ticks in to his collar.

Terry Flanagan, Mooney Goes Wild reporter & science teacher

Terry Flanagan

Hi Derek, good to have you back! Question: where have all our butterflies gone? Thanks, Leo in Cork
Many butterflies have declined in numbers due to climatic changes and modern farming techniques, but the poor weather over the last number of weeks is having an effect. Adults like to fly in warm sunny weather. As adults, they have only one function; to find a partner and mate. Wet windy weather is no friend of the butterfly. Hopefully, the weather will improve and so will sightings of butterflies.

Derek, there is a baby seagull in my back garden.  It can't get out, but my dogs are going mad to chase it; I have them locked in the house at the moment, but I have a dog flap and am trying to keep them in. Is there anything I can do to help the bird? Caroline in Dublin
Is there a parent bird around? If you could catch the baby (throw a rug over it and wrap it in the rug) and bring it outside the garden, to where the parent is, and then remove the rug. If there is no parent, then bring the bird down to the shore and release it there.

Hi Derek, we are inundated with grey squirrels taking eggs and hen feed from our henhouse. The hens were rescue hens which we have since December, they are free range in an old walled garden. We are loosing 10-12 eggs per day from our 18 hens. Any suggestions? Suzanne in Wexford
I would try chicken wire first. Failing this, you could use a water deterrent with a motion sensor (or a sonic deterrent with a motion sensor). These can be got from good garden centres or hardware stores. Leave it in the garden, the squirrel sets off the sensor and gets sprayed with water. 

I found a bat in my sitting room last night. It was crawling around. I was able to get it on cardboard and then left it out under a tree. I've checked now, and he/she is still there and alive, but wet. What should I have done or can do? Regards, Anthony in Monaghan
Take it in. Place it in an old (shoe) box. Place it in a dark warm place and try the same again tonight. Hopefully it won’t be raining, and he will take off. If not, it might be best to take him to a vet. Vets generally don’t charge for looking after wildlife.

Mooney, is black cold tea good for your plants?
Essentially, it would contain nitrogen and nitrogen is good for plants. However, it is also somewhat acidic and by adding large amounts to your plants, you might actually be doing some harm to them. It might be better to compost the tea leaves and add it to the soil afterwards. I would recommend a good water-soluble fertilizer for your plants. Tomato fertilizers work very well.

Philip McCabe, Mooney Goes Wild bee expert, President-elect of Apimondia & PRO for the Federation of Irish Beekeepers

Philip McCabe

Derek where are all the wasps gone? I've only seen one this year. Paul in Dublin
This year there is a noticeable shortage of wasps and chemicals would appear to be the main problem.

Hi Derek, I've just moved into an apartment, and just where my bins are at the wall, there is a hole in the wall. The wasps are very busy going in and out. They won't all attack me will they? Una
If you leave them alone they will leave you alone, unless you have to disturb them - don’t touch them, but if you could, move your bins to another location, it would take you away from the area.

I have noticed several dead and dying bees recently, is this unusual? Is there anything that can be done for them? They seem breathless and weak. Corrina
Bumble bees are now affected with deformed wing virus, the same as honeybees. The jury is still out on what is causing this, but it is widely believed that chemicals are being carried back to the nest and are then transferred through feeding into the larvae, and the insect is born either with no wings of with wings and parts missing so they cannot fly.

I have had three bumble bees (could be honey bees, not sure) die in my garden in the last week! They seemed like their wings were stuck. They walked up and down until exhausted, and just died. I put out sugar water and tried to get them to drink, but no luck. It was just so sad to see. What do you think happened? Could I do anything to help the bees if I see it again? We have lots of flowers and usually have lots of happy bees.  Regards, Hazel
Bumble bees are now affected with deformed wing virus, the same as honeybees. The jury is still out on what is causing this, but it is widely believed that chemicals are being carried back to the nest and are then transferred through feeding into the larvae, and the insect is born either with no wings of with wings and parts missing so they cannot fly.

I have a wasp hive as big as a football growing in my garden shed with two smaller ones coming along. Any advice as to how I might treat them for our safety? Jim
You cannot move a wasp’s nest and relocate it. If it has to go, and I would prefer that it didn’t, the only safe way is to kill it in-situ. You can buy a powder in any of the large hardware stores, then later at night, with a mask or silk scarf over your face and nose, puff the powder around the entrance and the wasps will ‘walk’ the powder into the nest. It may need two or three attempts to finish them off.

There appears to be a nest of bees in an outhouse at my home: will they or move on? Ita
Is it bumble bees or wasps? We would need more details before we could give a definitive answer.

In an old shed in my garden, there are lots of bees flying in and out.  I investigated and they were going in to an old cardboard box.  I saw a white scaly mass protruding out.  I don't know if they are honey bees.  If so, I would like to preserve the swarm.  What can I do?
It sounds like a wasps nest. You cannot move a wasp’s nest and relocate it. If it has to go, and I would prefer that it didn’t, the only safe way is to kill it in-situ. You can buy a powder in any of the large hardware stores, then later at night, with a mask or silk scarf over your face and nose, puff the powder around the entrance and the wasps will ‘walk’ the powder into the nest. It may need two or three attempts to finish them off.

Hi Derek, I have a query about bees, we have bees living in a wall in our garden here in Wexford, we call them the orange bottom bees. What we were wondering is how long can we expect them to stay active there, and will it always be somewhere they will live? Thanks, Rose in Enniscorthy
They are bumble bees, just leave them alone and they will be gone by year end.

Last year I found bumble bees hibernating in some moss peat filled pots - is this common? Many thanks, Kate in Kildare
This is very common, that where they like to live.

Hi, does the Varroa mite effect wasps?  I have a large swarm of wasps in a polytunnel that seems to have suffered catastrophic failure in the last week or so. Tom in Killenny.
No the varroa mite is pertinent to honeybees only.

What is the role of bees in forests?
Honeybees main function is pollination, even in forests.

My mother, in Co. Kildare, has bumble bees in the outside fascia of her kitchen. They got through via a gap left unsealed by recent building work. The bees go in and out without bothering anyone. There may be about twelve that I notice going back and forth, so they may be minding a queen bee? What should we do? Please advise! Thank you...
Just do nothing - they are bumble bees, and they will be gone by year end.

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