One very common invertebrate (an animal without a backbone) that I am sure you have all witnessed in your local area is the red ant (seangán dearg as Gaeilge).
These can be found throughout Ireland and are not thought to be native, but have become established and do not pose a threat to native wildlife. They can be found in many habitats and live in colonies — by turning over a stone or wood pile you are sure to find a colony.
As its name suggests, their bodies are reddish/brown in colour, with six legs and a well defined head, thorax and abdomen.
Females can measure between four and six mm while male workers are smaller.
Each ant colony can have up to 100 queens. Each year the colony will swarm and the queens will mate with male workers. After this, the queens return to the colony to lay their eggs while the males die.
Red ants feed on both plant and animal material. The male workers leave the nest in search of food to return to the colony.
If you come across a red ant this week, be sure to keep your distance as they can give a sting which will cause your skin to redden and become itchy.
If you want to get out and explore your local natural heritage, I suggest you take part in one of the many events that are planned to celebrate National Heritage Week which starts this Saturday, August 13. In Kildare there are 57 events being hosted, including butterfly walks, bats walks and canal crusies from Sallins to the Leinster Aqueduct. You can meet with an artist on Lodge Bog, or take a woodland walk and a dusk view of birds at Pollardstown Fen, to name a few.
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council are hosting three events starting from the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on August 13 at 11am, August 16 at 10am, and August 19 2pm.
For full details visit www.heritageweek.ie and discover for yourself the variety of nationwide events being hosted.
Don’t forget, if you come across a wildlife species that you would like help identifying I would be happy to help.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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