Red Sword-grass Noctuidae

Xylena vetusta (Hubner, 1813)

Description: Wingspan 52-62 mm. Adults are distinctive at rest as they wrap their wings tightly around their body so resembling a dead piece of wood. The forewings are straw-coloured with a reddish flush along the dorsal half of the wing. There is a small white mark in the central area of the forewing and an irregular subterminal line. Hindwings are fuscous with a small discal lunule.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside

Flight Period: Early September to late October and again after hibernation from mid-January to late April.

Status: Generally widespread across all counties, but usually more common in the south where recording is more frequent during the early part of the year.

Ecology: A large distinctive species found in a variety of habitats including damp woodland, bogs, fens and moorland. Adults come regularly to light and will also feed on overripe berries, rotten fruit and Ivy Hedera helix blossom. The larvae feed during the day, often fully exposed from May until the beginning of July on a variety of woody and herbaceous plants, including Bog Myrtle Myrica gale, dock Rumex spp., Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus and various grasses.

World Distribution: Throughout western Europe from Spain to the Arctic Circle.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 2241 Agassiz number: 73.209

Additional information:

UK Moths account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland