Insects and Mammals
Many species of insect and mammals can be observed in your back garden, alternatively visit the Liffey Linear Park, Pollardstown Fen, The Hill of Allen, Roseberry Bog or The Curragh are places where you can see many of the mammals or insects listed below.
The river Liffey is home to many water birds and fish species, primarily the Liffey at Newbridge contains Pike, Trout and to a lesser extent Salmon. Please note to fish in the Liffey in this area a Licence is required, and is available from the North Kildare Trout & Salmon Anglers Association.
How many of the following have you seen?
Ant / Seangán:
Ants are quite common, the black ant can set up home in your back garden generally under garden paving, the red ant will set up home in the soil, and the wood ant is more commonly found in woodland clearings. They can be a pest if they “invade” the home, but rather than using a pesticide try planting some mint where they enter the house, and this should discourage them.
Badger / Broc:
The badger is one of our largest mammals, with its white head and two vertical black stripes from ears to below the nostrils, and grey body the badger is very easily recognisable. Adult badgers have a body length of approximately 1 metre. Badgers eat both plants and flesh (earthworms, snails, mice etc.) and live in large underground tunnels (sets); they are very territorial, and nocturnal – coming out to feed at night.
For Further information visit the: Badgerwatch Ireland Website.
Bat / Ialtóg:
There are seven species of bat in Ireland and their main diet is insects, during winter Irish bats hibernate; they are mammals and are the only mammals capable of flight. By the way bats are not blind, nor are they a health hazard – but they are a protected species, and it is an offence to intentionally kill, disturb, or handle bats without a licence. The seven species are: Pipistrelle bats, the Long-eared bat, Leister’s bat, Lesser Horseshoe bat, Doubleton’s bat, Natterer’s bat and the Whiskered bat.
For Further information visit the: Kildare Bat Group Website or Bat Conservation Ireland Website
Beetles / Ciaróg:
The black (or ground) beetle is another common insect, generally found under stones or rotting logs. Its diet consists of plant material and some smaller insects;
Brown Hare / Giorria:
The Brown Hare is an introduced species, and is somewhat larger than the Irish hare, has longer ears and it is blackish in colour towards its tail. Hares have longer legs that rabbits. Their diet consists mainly of grasses and vegetation;
For Further information visit the: Conserve Ireland Website (Brown Hare)
Bumblebee / Beach fhiáin / Bumbóg:
The Bumblebee is a fat, “furry” bee, larger than the honey bee, and generally builds a nest in a hole in the ground. The bumblebees colour pattern is black with yellow strips and it is a common sight during the summer – there are approximately 20 bumblebee species in Ireland and the Bumblebee is one of Ireland’s most important wild pollinator.
For Further information visit the:National Biodiversity Data Centre Website (Bumblebee)
Butterflies / Féileacán:
There are approximately 30+ species of butterfly in Ireland, plant a buddleia bush and watch the butterflies gather round it. Butterflies include:
Blue, Holly / Blue, Small / Blue, Common / Brimstone / Clouded Yellow / Comma/ Copper, Small/ Fritillary, Silver-washed / Fritillary, Dark Green / Fritillary, Marsh / Fritillary, Pearl-bordered / Grayling / Green-veined White / Gatekeeper / Hairstreak, Brown / Hairstreak, Purple / Hairstreak, Green / Heath, Small / Heath, Large / Meadow Brown / Orange Tip / Painted Lady / Peacock / Red Admiral / Ringlet / Skipper, Dingy/ Skipper, Essex / Skipper, Small / Speckled Wood / Tortoiseshell, Small / Wall Brown / White, Small / White, Large / White, Wood
For Further information visit the: Irish Butterflies Website
Dragonfly / Snáthaid Mhór:
Dragonflies are aquatic insects found at many permanent water sites, and along freshwater habitats such as in the Liffey Linear Park, Corbally Harbour or even in domestic ponds. While young the dragonfly nymphs can live in water pools for three years, however once the adult emerges from the pools they only live for a month. Their diet consists of other invertebrates (insects), and of course they themselves are prey for birds and fish.
For Further information visit the: Habitas Website (Dragonfly)
Earthworm / Péist thalún:
The common earthworm can be found almost everywhere, and comes to the surface of the lawn in the evenings and at night. The earthworm is most important as it aerates the soil, and digests dead leaves and plants in the garden.
Earwigs / Gailseach:
The earwig is to be found in warm humid crevices – under dead leaves, garden stones and logs, there are only three species of earwig in Ireland – The Common Earwig, The Lesser Earwig (found in warm moist horse dung), and Lesne’s Earwig (mainly found in Waterford area).
For Further information visit the: Ireland’s Wildlife Website (Earwigs)
Fox / Madra rua / Sionnach:
The Red Fox is the only wild dog we have in Ireland, and is quite a common sight throughout Ireland. It can be found in all types of habitat including the urban environment; the fox has brownish red coat, white underside and bushy white tipped tail. Their diet consists of birds, frogs, rabbits, hares even mice and rats – in an urban environment they will raid bins for food. The fox is generally nocturnal but can be seen during the day, they are very territorial.
For Further information visit the: National Parks & Wildlife Service Website (Fox)
Frog / Frog, Loscann (Loscán):
There is only one species of Frog in Ireland – and it is a protected species. can survive equally well in fresh water or on land, however they return to the water to breed, and prefer wild unkempt “natural” grassy areas for foraging. They hibernate during the winter months; the common frog’s diet consists of slugs, worms, flies and insects, and is mainly to be found in ponds or boggy ground. The young are known as Tadpoles / Torbán. Wild fires and modern pesticides are probably the biggest threat to our frog population, however rats, herons and hedgehogs are among their natural predators. Frogs often find their way to garden ponds, where they can thrive if left undisturbed.
For Further information visit the: Irish Peatland Conservation Council Website (Frogs)
Grey Squirrel / Iora glas:
Introduced mid-19th century, the Grey Squirrel is not native to Ireland. It prefers deciduous woodland, but can be seen in town parks, and its diet includes hazelnuts, acorns, tree bark of young deciduous trees, and it will raid bird’s nests for eggs. The Grey Squirrel is most active at dawn and dusk foraging and feeding on the ground, or in trees. Builds itself a drey made of twigs, usually fairly high in the tree, they are a significant threat to our native Red Squirrel population.
For Further information visit the:Conserve Ireland Website (Grey Squirrel)
Hedgehog / Gráinneog:
The Hedgehog is greyish brown in colour with its coat of protective spines is very recognisable, and inhabits open grassland areas, areas around deciduous woodlands, scrub areas – however they will also inhabit meadows, and have often been seen in suburban gardens. When threatened they curl into a ball, and can build their nest in amongst the garden debris, grass, leaves etc. The Hedgehog’s diet includes slugs, snails, beetles, earwigs etc. therefore if they are in your back garden they can be most beneficial to the gardener reducing the need for chemical slug-killer etc.
For Further information visit the: Conserve Ireland Website (Hedgehog)
Honey Bee / Beach mheala:
Honeybees are social insects, living and working together in large groups, a colony (or hive) consists of the Queen Bee, Worker bees, and Drone Bees. The Queen and the Worker bees have stings, the Drone Bees have none, however bees only sting when they are under threat and the worker bee will die soon after it has used its sting. Honey is produced by the honeybee from the nectar of flowers, and the quality and taste of the honey depends on what type flowers were visited by the bees. Bees are probably the best pollinators as they move from flower to flower.
For further information visit the: Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations Website
Horse Fly / Creabhar capaill:
The horsefly is very common in hot weather, while the males feed on pollen and nectar, the female sucks blood. The bites can be painful. Horse flies lay their eggs in damp areas around rivers, ponds or swamps;
Irish Hare / Giorria Éireannach:
The Irish hare is larger than the rabbit, and found in open habitats, grasslands and on blanket and raised bogs. They do not burrow, but create nests in shallow hollows called a form. Their diet consists mainly of grasses and vegetation, and they generally feed at night. A young hare is called a Leveret.
For Further information visit the: National Parks & Wildlife Service (Irish Hare)
Ladybird / Bóín Dé:
Ladybirds are quite common and are often seen in hedgerows, grasslands and in your back garden. They feeds on aphids (greenfly) and insects so they are a friend of the gardener. There are approximately 15 species of Ladybird in Ireland – including the Seven (7) Spot Ladybird (seven spots and red / orange colour), The fourteen (14) Spot Ladybird (yellow with 14 black spots), and the Eyed Ladybird (numerous spots, and is orange red in colour).
For Further information visit the: Habitas Ladybirds of Ireland Website
Mink / Minc Mhericeanach:
The Mink is a type of weasel, and can be found in woods and parks near rivers and streams. Minks are not native to Ireland most of the mink are decedents of mink who escaped from mink farms in the 1950’s, or more recently mink have been released on purpose – which causes chaos among the native mammals. Mink feeds on duck, fish, rodents etc., they are active during daylight hours, and considered a “pest” species.
For Further information visit the: Conserve Ireland Website (Mink)
Otter / Madra uisce:
The otter tends to stay out of sight, lives close to water in a holt built into the riverbank. Its diet consists of fish, frogs and small mammals. They are shy and largely nocturnal; however there are a number of Otters in the Liffey Linear Park and around the College Weir. Otters are a protected species, and feed mainly on fish, small waterfowl, frogs and small mammals.
For Further information visit the: Ireland’s Wildlife Website (Otter)
Pine Marten / Cat Crainn:
Although still rare the number of Pine Marten in increasing in Ireland, mainly in deciduous or coniferous woodland. They are territorial, and predatory – eating rodents, birds, rabbits, however they will also feed on berries, nuts and carrion with no natural enemies, being able to climb high into trees. Pine Marten are a protected species.
For Further information visit the: National Parks & Wildlife Service Website (Pine Marten)
Rabbit / Coinín:
The Rabbit is not “native” to Ireland having been introduced by the Normans in the 12th century. However the rabbit is fairly common around the country, with its large ears and excellent hearing it can be “spooked” very easily. The Rabbit’s diet mainly consists of grasses and leaves, in secluded areas they will feed during the day; however it is more common for rabbits to appear at dusk. The Rabbit’s main predators are the fox, badger, mink, cats and domestic dogs.
For Further information visit the: National Parks & Wildlife Service Website (Rabbits)
Red Squirrel / Iora rua:
The red squirrel is considered native to this country and is small, reddish, tree- living animal with a long bushy tail (in fact it is a rodent). Most often found in our ever declining coniferous forests, they spend almost all of their time in trees. So healthy woodland (which is being seriously eroded) is essential for their survival and in addition the red squirrel’s survival is being threatened by the introduced non- native Grey squirrel. The red squirrels are most active in the mornings, and its diet consists of nuts and acorns.
For Further information visit the: National Parks & Wildlife Service Website (Red Squirrel)
Spider / Damhán alla:
There are many types of spider found in Ireland; most common is the “Garden Spider” which spins a complicated web. In addition the “Daddy Long-Legs” is a common visitor to your house where it is attracted to the constant availability of heat.
Wasp / Foiche:
The wasp generally builds their hive in the eves of garden shed roofs, or in trees, however they can also build below the ground. The wasp is at its most aggressive in September, when it is prone to sting. Like the bumblebees colour pattern is black with yellow strips and it is a common sight during the summer.
For Further information visit the: Ireland’s Wildlife Website (Wasp)
Links for further information:
We have drawn on numerous sources to compile the above information, and for those of you who wish to obtain more comprehensive information and photographs, the following book is excellent reference resource:
The Collins “Complete Irish Wildlife” by Paul Sterry (ISBN 000 717629 5) with an introduction by Derek Mooney is an excellent guide to insects, mammals, birdlife, amphibians, fish, flowers, trees etc. and well worth reading.