bees kylemore
Kylemore fern
Kylemore Abbey  from lake

What are we protecting


We love when our visitors contact us with wildlife sightings. Recently some darker coloured butterflies were spotted on the Flora, Fauna, and Folklore Trail. So I went to investigate. The two butterflies that dotted the meadow along the trail are the Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) and the Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus). The larva of both butterflies feed on grasses so you will find the butterflies close to grassland. The Meadow brown has a longer flight time between June and September than the Ringlet that you can see dart between the grasses from mid-June to mid-August.”

Feathers on the loose
Observant visitors, most likely the children, will notice more feathers than usual on the ground or in the water. That is because most birds are moulting at the moment.

Feathers are made of keratin, just like our hair and nails. They get damaged through flying, rubbing, weather exposure and parasites. Moulting is the process of a bird shedding damaged feathers and replacing them with fresh plumage. During the moulting period, birds are more susceptible to predators and bad weather. So the process happens gradually and takes place in the quieter times, before or after the breeding season.

Water Lillies
The water-lily is Ireland’s largest and most ornamental wildflower. In the lakes of Kylemore estate, you will find our two native water-lily species: the white water-lily (Nymphaea alba) and the yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea). These plants like still or slow-moving water. The white water-lily can grow in water no deeper than 2m, while the yellow water-lily can grow to depths of 5m. Both plants like a clean environment and do not tolerate boat traffic.

Water-lilies are a perfect habitat for a wide range of life such as fish, aquatic invertebrates, insects, snails and birds. In Neolithic times the water-lily was seen as a food source. More recently the yellow water-lily is researched for its medicinal properties in the treatment of infections, inflammation and cancer.

Irish Honeybee – Apis mellifera mellifera - Beach

Meet a very hardworking resident of Kylemore estate: the native Irish honeybee (Apis mellifera mellifera) or the Irish black bee. It is has a stocky, mainly dark brown body and is built to survive the challenging wet, windy Irish weather. A colony of honeybees consists of one queen, drones and worker bees. The queen is the only female bee that will lay eggs. The drones are the male bees whose sole job is to fertilise the queen. Finally, the female worker bees are the busiest in the colony. Their jobs include minding the eggs, feeding the larvae, construct the honeycomb, and collect the nectar and pollen.

10 cool bee facts:
1. There are 77 solitary bees, 20 bumblebees and 1 species of honeybee in Ireland.
2. In the height of the summer, up to 50.000 bees live in a hive.
3. 12 bees will produce a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime.
4. A worker bee visits up to 2000 flowers per day.
5. A queen can lay more than 2000 eggs a day.
6. Honeybees communicate through movement (“waggle dance”), smell, and food exchanges.
7. Honeybees can fly between 24-32 km/h.
8. Only the queen defecates inside the hive, and dedicated bees clean up after her.
9. The type of food given to larvae determines what bee emerges: a queen from royal jelly, female workers from fermented pollen (bee bread) and honey.
10. The hive is a constant 34 degrees Celsius all year round.

This month we have welcomed thousands of new residents to Kylemore estate! We are talking about Irish honey bees (Apis mellifera mellifera). Martin Curran, from Connemara Honey, has placed three nucs close to our new Flora, Fauna and Folklore Trail. A nuc, short for nucleus colony, is a starter box for a small new colony. The box has typically 3-5 frames, one young queen and a few thousands of bees. A Nuc gives a colony a chance to get used to their surroundings. Once they have settled they can be transferred to their permanent hive.

We hope that the bees will feel right at home and keep busy foraging from the different wildflowers and the flowers in the Victorian Walled Garden to produce tasteful honey!

This month we have welcomed thousands of new residents to Kylemore estate! We are talking about Irish honey bees (Apis mellifera mellifera). Martin Curran, from Connemara Honey, has placed three nucs close to our new Flora, Fauna and Folklore Trail. A nuc, short for nucleus colony, is a starter box for a small new colony. The box has typically 3-5 frames, one young queen and a few thousands of bees. A Nuc gives a colony a chance to get used to their surroundings. Once they have settled they can be transferred to their permanent hive.

The Irish native bee is also called the Irish black bee due to its predominantly dark brown, almost black body colour. The Irish black bee is well adapted to the Irish weather, it will work in cold drizzly weather and not use too much honey from its stores. Apis mellifera mellifera is known to be a docile strain of bee.

At the height of the summer, the colony will grow to about 50 000 bees and a worker bee visits about 2000 flowers a day. It takes about 12 bees to produce a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime.

Germander Speedwell / Veronica chamaedrys / Anuallach
This year a lot of our grassy verges are covered in a bright blue carpet. It seems to be a bumper year for the little Germander Speedwell flower (Veronica chamaedrys). The dark blue veins on the petals are ‘nectar guides’, markers for pollinating insects to guide them to the centre of the flower. Unlike humans, bees can see ultraviolet light. The dark blue veins do not reflect UV light and are extra noticeable to the bees.

Even though the little flowers wilts quickly after being picked it was considered in the past to be a good luck charm for travellers.

Lady’s Smock / Cardamine pratensis / Biolar gréagáin
Lady’s Smock or the Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) is a perennial flower that likes to grow in grassy, wet places (pratensis is Latin for ‘meadow’). The pale pink flowers start to appear in April, about the same time as the Cuckoo. This elegant little flower is part of the Brassicaceae family, the same family that our Cabbages, Kales and Brussel sprouts belong to.

Look out for the Orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) if you see Lady Smock. This butterfly (only the males have orange tipped wings, the females are white) uses the flower as one of their larval foodplants. The butterfly lays a single egg just underneath the flower buds. The egg turns a deep orange just before the caterpillar emerges and start to feed on the developing seedpods.

Oceanic Woodland
We might not directly associate the ocean with trees, and yet… Our ancient woodlands on the west coast of Ireland have evolved in a unique way thanks to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic Drift brings warmth and humidity, perfect conditions for the growth of temperate rainforest woodlands. These forests consist of beautiful old oak trees mixed with holly, rowan and hazel trees covered in rich layers of different species of mosses, lichens and ferns. These woodlands are rich in biodiversity, and some species that grow here are not found anywhere else in the world. So, if you walk through Kylemore Woodlands, spare a thought for the Atlantic Ocean that made it possible!

Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, Cuach
Spring heralds the return of the cuckoo, a secretive bird that is more often heard than seen.

The cuckoo is slightly smaller than a woodpigeon. The plumage of the head, neck and back of the cuckoos is grey. Its belly is white with black markings. It has a yellow ring around the eyes and yellow feet. In flight, the cuckoo looks like the sparrow hawk.

Of all the world’s cuckoo species, 58% are parental birds, and 42% are so-called brood parasites. They do not raise their own young but lay an egg in the nest of host parents like the dunnock, meadow pipit or reed warbler. Each female cuckoo prefers one kind of host species. Every year they lay an egg that mimics the host parent eggs. For example, some cuckoos lay brown and spotted eggs if they prefer the meadow pipit as a host, some lay green and spotted eggs if they always choose reed warblers as a host, or plain blue for redstart etc.

Only the males call out the familiar ‘cuck-oo’ call to attract a mate. Females are reported to make a bubbling sound.
Cuckoos migrate every year to central and southern Africa for the winter. They leave in August and make an incredible 7000-kilometre journey to the south. This migration is quite amazing if you realise that fledgeling cuckoos have no parents to teach them where to go and how to get there. Nature can be truly remarkable!

If you want to learn more about the cuckoo you can read: “Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature” by Nick Davies

St Patrick’s Cabbage - Saxifrage spathularis - Cabáiste mhadra rua
The St Patrick’s Cabbage plant is an evergreen perennial that likes to grow on shaded rocky outcrops. It has leathery leaves with a serrated edge and flowers between May and August. This year we have found the St Patrick’s plant flowering in April. The pretty white flowers have five petals with pink and yellow spots.

The St Patrick’s Cabbage is part of the Lusitanian Flora: a group of 15 species that only grow on the west coast of Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). It is still a mystery how this geographical distribution came about and why these species do not grow in Britain or France.

Primrose – Sabhaircín – Primula vulgaris
“Primula” means “first”, it is after all one of our first wildflowers to mark the start of Spring

Wood-sorrel – Seamsóg – Oxalis acetosella
This dainty woodland flower is also called Wood Shamrock due to the similar leaf shape

Common Hair Cap Moss – Polytrichum commune
This pretty moss can be found growing in clumps on acidic, boggy soil

Hoverflies – Syrphidae family
I always enjoy listening to Anja Murray’s “Nature files”, Saturday morning, Lyric FM. She regals us at breakfast with wonderful, insightful information about the Irish flora and fauna. A few weeks ago, she had a piece about hoverflies that made me want to investigate “Kylemore’s hoverflies”.

Hoverflies belong to the true flies order. They are also called “flower flies” as they feed on nectar and pollen. There are 180 Irish species of hoverflies. Many of them mimic bees, bumblebees, and wasps to fool predators. Sometimes the mimicry is so good that it is difficult to distinguish them. The main differences are that hoverflies don’t sting, their eyes are much bigger, they only have one pair of wings, and their antae are small. Hoverfly larvae are a gardener’s best friend as some species are avid aphid eaters. After metamorphoses, hoverflies are important flower pollinators in our ecosystem. Here are 8 species of hoverflies I caught on camera; only 172 to go…

Meadowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria - Airgead luachra (Silver rushes)
In the middle of the summer the Connemara lanes are lined with a cloud of white-cream meadowsweet. On the estate you will find meadowsweet on the shore of Maladrolaun lake on the way to the Victorian Walled Garden.
A lovely, sweet almond-like smell comes off the delicate clusters of flowers. Surprisingly, the common name doesn’t originate from the word meadow but from the Anglo-Saxon “meodu-swete” meaning “mead-sweetener”. In the old days, the flowers were used to flavour mead, beer, and wines. People used to scatter the flowers on church and cottage floors to sweeten the air.

Meadowsweet was also used as an herbal medicine; it contains salicylic acid, an aspirin-like chemical, and a black dye was extracted from the roots.

If you are worried about a loved one pining or wasting away under the influence of fairies, place some meadowsweet under their bed to cure them by the morning! (an old west Co. Galway belief).