Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Caradrina morpheus – mottled rustic

Caradrina morpheus

Caradrina morpheus (Hufnagel, 1766)
Family: Noctuidae

This small Noctuid moth is superficially similar to a number of other closely related species but familiarity will help pick this out of a crowd! It has a strong south-east distribution and is apparently unknown from Fermanagh and Londonderry. It is not as variable as the related species and the fuzzy edged dark cross lines and kidney mark set on a pale brown background will aid identification. It is on the wing from late June through August. It has declined in the UK by 61% over a 25 year period. In Northern Ireland there is no evidence of such a decline.

In brief

  • Common in a variety of open habitats in Counties Down, Armagh and north Antrim. Scarcer elsewhere
  • The adult flies from June to August
  • 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 61% decline over a 25 year period

Species description
The Mottled Rustic has a pale to dark brown background colour, with all markings, cross lines and stigmas, being distinctly blurred and fuzzy.

Life cycle
The adult flies from late June through August. Eggs are laid on a wide range of broad-leaved herbaceous plants as well as some shrubs such as willow. It overwinters as a full grown larva in an underground cocoon pupating in spring.

Similar species
The blurred markings on the forewing should distinguish this species from the superficially similar Rustic and Uncertain.

How to see this species
This species is readily attracted to light and can be taken relatively easily in open habitats.

Current status
It is relatively common throughout south-east Northern Ireland including urban areas but it is apparently near absent from the north and west.

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.

  • Occurs on a number of designated sites
  • 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

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