Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Xanthia icteritia – sallow

 
Xanthia icteritia
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Xanthia icteritia (Hufnagel, 1766)
Family: Noctuidae

A well distributed smallish, relatively common, late summer and autumnal species. It is found in a wide variety of habitats wherever willows occur. The base colour is lemon yellow superimposed with patches of brown and pinkish markings which vary in intensity between individuals. It is perfectly camouflaged against autumnal willow leaves. It has declined in the UK by 71% over a 25 year period but in Northern Ireland there is no evidence of such a decline.

In brief

  • Widespread and relatively common throughout Northern Ireland
  • The adult flies from August to October
  • 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 71% decline over a 25 year period

Species description
The forewing has a lemon yellow base colour superimposed with patches of brown and pinkish markings which vary in intensity between individuals. Rarely pure yellow individuals occur.

Life cycle
The adult flies from August to October. It overwinters as an egg placed close to the growing tips of Willow twigs. It initially feeds on the catkins but when they fall to the ground the caterpillar switches food-plant to variety of herbaceous species such as docks. Pupation takes place in an underground cocoon.

Similar species
Pink-barred Sallow is similar but has a significant proportion of the head and shoulders coloured pink-purple.

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

Current status
Widespread and relatively common throughout Northern Ireland.

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 (71% 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.

  • Occurs on a number of designated sites

Proposed objectives/actions

  • 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, 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
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