Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Hydraecia micacea – rosy rustic

Hydraecia micacea

Hydraecia micacea (Esper, 1789)
Family: Noctuidae

Rosy Rustic is a common, small to medium-sized Noctuid moth. The background colour varies from grey to a distinctly rosy colour. There is little other variation other than size which can vary tremendously with some specimens being twice the size of others. It can be found on the wing throughout Northern Ireland from August to October. It is probably one of the commonest moths on the wing in September. It has declined in the UK by 75% over a 25 year period. In Northern Ireland there is no evidence of such a decline.

In brief

  • Widespread and common throughout Northern Ireland
  • The adult flies in August to October
  • Most likely to be encountered at light or on ivy blossom
  • A Northern Ireland Priority Species because of declines detected in other parts of the UK where it has undergone a 75% decline over a 25 year period

Species description
The forewing colour varies from grey, through orange to pinkish-brown although the latter colour form is by far the commonest. Intensity of colour also varies considerably. The markings though are very consistent as is the general velvety texture. This species does vary markedly in size with some specimens being double the size of others!

Life cycle
The adult flies in August through into October. Overwinters as an egg. Caterpillars hatch in April and begin feeding on the stems of a wide variety of herbaceous plants before moving down into the roots where it eventually pupates in a cocoon. Species attacked include docks and plantains but also horticultural crops such as hops and strawberries. As a consequence habitat type is relatively unimportant. It overwinters as an egg. Pupation takes place in spring in a cocoon just below the surface of the ground.

Similar species
No similar species present in Northern Ireland. The Butterbur is unrecorded here but is superficially similar although generally much larger and bulkier and always lacking the rosy hue.

How to see this species
This species is attracted to light and can be taken relatively easily in most open habitats including gardens. Alternatively it can often be found at night nectaring on the flowers of Ragwort and Buddleia

Current status
It is widespread and 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 (75% 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, 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

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