Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Ecliptopera silaceata – small phoenix

Ecliptopera silaceata

Ecliptopera silaceata (Denis & Schiff., 1775)
Family: Geometridae

A small, nocturnal butterfly-like moth with a distinctive, dark broad cross band broken by two white lines. Often sits with the abdomen raised up resembling the mythical Phoenix. It occurs May to September in woodland rides, large gardens and is probably present wherever its foodplants, willowherbs, are common. A Northern Ireland Priority Species because of major declines detected elsewhere in the UK. At present such data does not exist for Northern Ireland.

In brief

  • This is a relatively common moth of woodland edge and rides, scrub and gardens
  • It has two generations on the wing May to September and occurs most commonly across the southern half of Northern Ireland
  • It is frequently attracted to light
  • It is a Northern Ireland Priority Species because of declines detected in other parts of the UK where it has undergone a 65% decline over a 25 year period. There is no evidence as yet that the species has exhibited a similar decline in Northern Ireland but as we are part of the UK it has been included on the Priority List

Species description
A member of the Geometridae and it can be described as a member of this “butterfly-like” group of moths. It normally rests with the wings open revealing a dark, broad cross-band edged in white, usually, but not always broken by two white lines. At rest the abdomen is usually raised upward and curled over above the thorax.

Life cycle
The caterpillar feeds on various willowherbs and over-winters as a pupa amongst leaf debris. The adult can be encountered from May to September.

Similar species
There are a number of similar species but the larger Phoenix is rarer and has a broader, unbroken cross-band. Both species curl their abdomens.

How to see this species
Relatively easy to see at light and can be found with relative ease in Counties Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and South Antrim.

Current status
Relatively common within the range outlined above. More trapping in Londonderry and North Antrim may well reveal that it is equally common in these areas.

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 (65% 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. General management for Biodiversity such as leaving weedy margins on roadsides, woodland rides and in gardens will help maintain the species.

  • Occurs on many ASSIs

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

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

iNaturalist: Species account : iNaturalist World Species Observations database