Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Atethmia centrago – centre-barred sallow

Atethmia centrago

Atethmia centrago (Haworth, 1809)
Family: Noctuidae

A well distributed, but never common, distinctive autumnal species. The combination of yellow base colour and broad pink cross and terminal bands on the forewings are definitive. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats and is likely to be found wherever mature Ash is present. It has declined in the UK by 62% over a 25 year period but in Northern Ireland there is no evidence of such a decline.

In brief

  • Widespread although rarely encountered in numbers
  • The adult flies in August and September
  • Most likely to be encountered at light
  • A Northern Ireland Priority Species because of declines detected in other parts of the UK where it has undergone a 62% decline over a 25 year period

Species description
The forewing colour combination of a yellow base colour and broad, pink cross and terminal bands on the forewings are definitive.

Life cycle
The adult flies in August and September. It overwinters as an egg with caterpillars hatching out in early Spring when they feed on unopened Ash buds. As they develop they feed at night on the flowers hiding in the daytime in crevices on the trunk. Pupation takes place in an underground cocoon in July.

Similar species

How to see this species
This species is readily attracted to light and persistent trapping of woodland edge or larger gardens is likely to be eventually productive.

Current status
Widespread, although never abundant. The lack of records from County Londonderry is likely to reflect a lack of trapping effort.

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 (62% 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.

Proposed objectives/actions

  • Occurs on a number of designated sites
  • Increase Rothamstead Trap network to gather data on status
  • Encourage submission of records to the Moth recorder

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

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

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

Background information on the Rothamstead Trap Surveys

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