By Patrick Markey
Giant creepy-crawlies are invading homes across Northern Ireland, a top insect expert told The Belfast Telegraph in a recent interview.
Residents have been spotting spiders as large as mice and slugs reaching up to 200 mm in all parts of the Northern counties. The Department of Agriculture is also receiving up to 100 calls a day from people complaining about wasp nests.
Paul Moore, higher scientific officer at the Environmental Health Advisory Service, has also noted an increase in the number of public complaints about the large insects and multi-limbed creatures this year. But, Moore said, although frightening at first sight, the creatures are harmless.
"Whenever someone comes across one of the creatures, they get a bit of a shock. But I am hoping to make people more aware of what they are so they will not worry," he said.
"We have had around 50-60 reports of huge spiders, three dozen complaints about the wasps and slugs and around 12 concerning caterpillars."
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But these figures are probably just the tip of the iceberg as a lot of people would not report them. Most of these creatures have been around for a while, he said, there are usually more sightings during the cooler weather.
"None of them will invade the larder, although the slugs have been known to eat dog food," Moore said. " I hope that people will not kill these creatures as they are here for a purpose. They should live and let live."
Said one Belfast sweet shop employee about the spiders: "They frighten the life out of me and we come across around five or six a day sometimes."
Other assorted nasties spotted recently include: Giant wood wasps, a ferocious-looking but innocuous insect, which can grow up to 44 mm; Giant caterpillars, which can reach lengths of up to 80 mm and large, mottled green and black slugs.
A hunt through the hilltops in County Limerick recently failed to reveal any trace of the local student who has been declared Ireland’s 95th Lotto millionaire, reports the Limerick Post.
The lucky scholar collected his £1,135,770 jackpot at National Lottery headquarters last week, but decided to remain anonymous.
The mountain trail leading to the winner’s whereabouts surfaced when the new millionaire disclosed that his first reaction to the good news was to "go to Mass and then climb a mountain to get closer to God to thank him for my good fortune."
But a search from Sugar Hill and Knockfierna to the Ballyhouras and the Galtees has yielded not a single sighting of a grateful student. The goddess Eibhle, who guards Slieve Felim from landfill prospectors, was shrouded in mist and mystery as usual.
Despite his other-worldly communications, Limerick’s new Lotto millionaire has modest ambitions:
"At the moment, I intend to buy new trousers, a pair of shoes and a new bicycle. When I have time, I would like to learn to drive and I would also like to take swimming lessons," he announced.
The winner bought the quick-pick ticket while on a brief visit to Cork, which is another reason why those on his trail have been forced to resort to the mountain clue.
All the National Lottery will disclose is that the student has returned to study after a one-year break, and after collecting the check he went to lunch with his parents, brothers and sisters.
Cork: highest infant death rate
Babies born in Cork City are twice as likely to die before they reach their first birthday than those born in other parts of the country, The Examiner newspaper reported recently.
Statistics released recently by the Central Statistics Office, show that in 1994 a rate of 13.9 babies per 1,000 born to women living within the Cork City boundary died in the first year of life. This compared with a national average of 5.7.
The figures relate to babies who died at between one hour to one year after birth and the majority died in the first four weeks after birth.
In 1993, Cork City had the second-highest rate in the country, a rate well above the third-highest region.
The last 25 years have seen a dramatic decline in baby deaths in Ireland and the latest figures show a sharp drop from the late 1950s and early ’60s when the nation had a death rate of three in every 100 infants. Birthweight, social status, and type of antenatal care all effect infant mortality rates.
Currently, Ireland is in line with the European average of 5.7. However, the picture is poor for prenatal deaths, or stillbirths, as well as deaths of babies in late pregnancy or shortly after delivery. With a rate of 9.3, Ireland is third from the top of that league, just behind Greece and Portugal. This compares with 5.4 for Sweden and Finland.