Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Scotopteryx chenopodiata – shaded broad-bar

Scotopteryx chenopodiata

Scotopteryx chenopodiata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Geometridae

A small fairly common butterfly-like moth which can be quite variable in colour but none the less easily recognisable. The forewings are mostly ochreous-brown contrasting with the dark central band and the much paler hind wings. It occurs from mid July to early September in woodland rides, large gardens, semi-improved and un-improved grassy areas, dunes and heaths. A Northern Ireland Priority Species because of major declines detected elsewhere in the UK. At present such data does not exist for Northern Ireland.

In brief

  • This is a relatively common moth of woodland edge and rides, grassy areas and coastal sand-dunes
  • It has a single generation on the wing mid July to early September and is widespread in all counties of Northern Ireland
  • It is only attracted to light in small numbers but can be found feeding at flowers after dusk
  • It is a Northern Ireland Priority Species because of declines detected in other parts of the UK where it has undergone a 61% decline over a 25 year period. There is no evidence as yet that the species has exhibited a similar decline in Northern Ireland but as we are part of the UK it has been included on the Priority List

Species description
A member of the Geometridae, it can be described as a member of this “butterfly-like” group of moths. It normally rests with the ochreous-brown forewings wings open revealing a dark, prominent central band composed of additional bands within, the central one being lighter almost grey in colour. The overall colour can be quite variable from ochreous-brown to reddish-brown but the markings remain consistent. The hindwings in contrast are greyish-white.

Life cycle
The caterpillar feeds on clovers and vetches and this stage lasts from August through to June when it pupates, possibly amongst the plant litter. The adults are on the wing from mid-July to early September.

Similar species
This moth is unlikely to be confused with any other moth recorded in Northern Ireland.

How to see this species
Relatively easy to see in grassy areas. Can be netted at night as it visits flowers such as common ragwort and common knapweed. It only comes to light in small numbers but by day it can be easily disturbed from rest among low vegetation and grasses.

Current status
Relatively common and widespread, recorded from all counties and Rathlin Island.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?

  • Listed as a UK Priority Species and therefore on the Northern Ireland Priority List by default
  • Rapid decline (61% over 25 years 1968-2002) assessed using Rothamstead trap data

Threats/Causes of decline
It is thought to be declining in the UK as a result of many factors, including habitat change, pollution and the use of pesticides.

Conservation of this species

Current action
In Northern Ireland there are no specific actions proposed for this species. General management for Biodiversity such as leaving weedy margins on roadsides, woodland rides and in gardens will help maintain the species.

Current actions

  • Occurs on many ASSIs
  • Increase Rothamstead Trap network to gather data on status
  • Encourage submission of records to the Moth recorder

Proposed objectives/actions

  • None currently proposed

What you can do

  • Report all moth sightings to the Moth Recorder for Northern Ireland, Andrew Crory, or use the Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland (BCNI) sightings web page at The BCNI database is managed by CEDaR and these records will then be used to update the Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland website.
  • Join Butterfly Conservation. Butterflies and Moths are in serious decline — with your support Butterfly Conservation can take action to reverse this.

Further information

The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland

MothsIreland Website

The state of Britain's moths - an explanation as to how declines have been calculated

Background information on the Rothamstead Trap Surveys

UK Moths Website with an up-to-date distribution map

Bayne, E.S.A. (1964). A revised catalogue of Irish macrolepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths). EW Classey, Hampton, Middlesex.
Porter, J. (1997). The colour identification guide to caterpillars of the British Isles. Viking, London.
Skinner, B. (2009). 3rd revised and updated edition. The colour identification guide to the moths of the British Isles. Apollo Books.
Thompson, R. & Nelson, B. (2006). The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland. NMNI, Belfast.
Waring, P & Townsend, M (2009). 2nd edition. Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife.

Text written by:
Allen & Mellon