What is this mushroom we saw on the Antrim coast? Readers’ nature queries

Eanna Ní Lamhna on dor beetles, bog asphodel, Ichneumon fly and the box-tree moth caterpillar

We saw this mushroom on a walk near Downhill on the north Antrim coast. It looks like a cocktail umbrella and was about 3-4cm across. What could it be? Eithne McCarthy, Belfast

It was probably Parasola plicatilis – pleated inkcap/Japanese parasol. Not sure about its edibility, so don’t go popping one into your cocktail.

Found this creature in a bucket outside our back door. Is it a beetle or a cockroach? The body, including the head, is 2.5cm long. Mary Breen, Co Meath

It is not a cockroach. Cockroaches have very long antennae curving backwards and they don’t occur in the wild in Ireland. It is a dor beetle, which is that size and has clubbed antennae. These beetles have metallic coloured undersides and feed on dung. The name comes from an old English word meaning drone, for in the evening it has a humming flight and is attracted to light.


Walking along the top of Tibradden mountain today, I saw what looked like orange grasses growing among the heather and other bog grasses. Can you tell me what sort of grass it is, if it is grass? Susan Stafford-Langan, Co Dublin

It is not a grass. These are the old flower stalks of the bog asphodel, which produces yellow flowers from June to August. Its Latin name (Narthecium ossifragum) recalls the belief that eating the plant gave cattle brittle bones, but that is not the case.

I found this insect hiding in a pallet in my back garden. Can you identify it please? Peter Byrne, Co Meath

It is an Ichneumon fly, which parasitises caterpillars by laying its eggs in the living body. These hatch and eat the caterpillar’s insides while it is still alive.

Is this the dreaded box caterpillar moth? I found it close to a box hedge that had been devastated by the caterpillar. Nicky Ashe, Dublin 6

I fear it is. The box-tree moth was first recorded in Tramore in 2017, and there are several records since from Cork, Belfast and Dublin. It is here to stay. The caterpillars eat the leaves and the bark of box.

Have you a nature query, observation, or photo you would like to send to The Irish Times? Please submit it, with a location, via our website www.irishtimes.com/eyeonnature

Éanna Ní Lamhna

Éanna Ní Lamhna

Éanna Ní Lamhna, a biologist, environmentalist, broadcaster, author and Irish Times contributor, answers readers' queries in Eye on Nature each week