Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Euxoa nigricans – garden dart

 
Euxoa nigricans
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Euxoa nigricans (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Noctuidae

The Garden Dart belongs to a group of moths which need to be identified with care and sometimes dissection. It is apparently not common in Northern Ireland and rarely turns up in gardens! It seems to be commonest in coastal dune systems where the relevant form is often difficult to separate from White-line Dart. The most easily identifiable form is a fairly uniform blackish colour with some of the markings etched in yellow although some specimens are to all intent, black. The wings are always tightly folded and overlapping, hiding the body. This species has undergone a staggering 92% decline in the UK over the last 25 years.

In brief

  • Uncommon in Northern Ireland, most frequently reported from County Down
  • It is a Northern Ireland Priority Species because of declines detected in other parts of the UK where it has undergone a 92% decline over a 25 year period

Species description
The most easily identifiable form is a fairly uniform blackish colour with some of the markings etched in yellow although some specimens are to all intent, black. The forms found in coastal dunes are usually a dull brown with obscure markings and superficially resemble the White-line Dart. Some can only be reliably separated by dissection. The wings are always tightly folded and overlapping, hiding the body.

Life cycle
The caterpillars feed mainly at night on a variety of common grassland herbs such as clovers and plantains. The adult flies from about mid-July through to mid-September.

Similar species
Some forms very similar to other “Darts” and especially White-line Dart which always has a thin pale streak along the leading edge of the forewing and small arrowhead marks near the outer wing edge. But be wary of worn or intermediate examples.

How to see this species
Difficult to target but the more cryptic forms can be taken at light on mature dune systems like those found at Murlough and Killard in County Down. The adults fly from dusk and can often be netted whilst nectaring at ragwort flowers.

Current status
Uncommon in Northern Ireland and apparently, virtually restricted to County Down. Some of the cryptic forms may well be under-recorded.

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 (92% 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 other than to continue to gather records.

Proposed objectives/actions

  • Encourage submission of records. A good photograph or specimen may be required for validation purposes

What you can do

  • Report all moth sightings to the Moth Recorder for Northern Ireland, Andrew Crory, andrew.crory@gmail.com or use the Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland (BCNI) sightings web page at http://www.bcni.org.uk/submitsighting.php. 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

Links
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

Literature
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