Marbled White

Melanargia galathea (mell-uh-NAR-jee-uh ga-la-THEE-uh)

Marbled White - imago - Pamber Forest - 29-Jun-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
 

Wingspan
Male: 53mm
Female: 58mm

Checklist Number
59.012

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:SatyrinaeBoisduval, 1833
Tribe:MelanargiiniWheeler, 1903
Genus:MelanargiaMeigen, 1828
Subgenus:  
Species:galathea(Linnaeus, 1758)
Subspecies:serena Verity, 1913

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Introduction

Despite its name, the Marbled White is more closely related to the subfamily known as the "browns" that the "whites". This butterfly is unmistakable, its black and white markings distinguishing it from all other species found in the British Isles. This butterfly is found in distinct and often large colonies, south of a line between Glamorganshire in the west and North-east Yorkshire in the east, although it is not found in much of eastern England. It is absent from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Melanargia galathea ssp. galathea

The species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Germany and southern Europe). The nominate subspecies has not been recorded in the British Isles.

Melanargia galathea ssp. serena

This subspecies was first defined in Verity (1913a) as shown here (type locality: England). Records from the British Isles are of this subspecies.

Marbled White Male - Woldingham, Surrey 21-June-09

Male
Photo © Vince Massimo

Marbled White male - Rewell Wood, Sussex 20-June-2014

Male Underside
Photo © Neil Hulme

Marbled White Female - Birling Gap, Sussex 13-July-06

Female
Photo © Vince Massimo

Marbled White Female - Woldingham, Surrey 28-June-10

Female Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1695Our Half-MournerPetiver (1695-1703)
1710Half-mournerRay (1710)
1717Common Half-mournerPetiver (1717)
1742MarmorisWilkes (1742)
1749Marble ButterflyWilkes (1749)
1766Marbled WhiteHarris (1766)
1766MarmoressHarris (1766)
1795Marbled ArgusLewin (1795)
1819Marbled ButterflySamouelle (1819)
1841Marbled White Half-mournerWestwood (1841)

Conservation Status

This butterfly has extended its distribution over recent years and is not currently a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Increase+29
Large Increase+50
Increase+26
Increase+25

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

The butterfly is found in unimproved grassland where the grass may grow up to 0.5m tall. The largest colonies are found on downland but even small strips of grassland, such as a road verge, field margins, woodland clearings and disused railway lines can contain smaller colonies.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

Adults emerge in the second half of June, reaching a peak in mid-July. There is one generation each year.

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

Early morning is a good time to see this species, as it warms up with wings held open absorbing the sun's rays. This species can be quite conspicuous, even from a distance, as it may be the only white object among the grassland. At good sites it is not uncommon at good sites to see a flower head containing several adults all vying for space as they feed. When the weather is dull, and at night, the adults will rest on grass stems, as well as the flowerheads of any of their nectar sources, such as Thistle or Knapweed.

The Marbled White is often found with parasitic red mites, Trombidium breei in particular, attached to its thorax, although such parasitism does not appear to affect the butterfly in any way.

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Thyme (Thymus polytrichus), White Clover (Trifolium repens) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are also used.

Melanargia galathea ssp. serena

Marbled White Female - Woldingham, Surrey 28-June-10

Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jun-2010

Marbled-White- 5D33270

Photo © IainLeach
Cambs, June 2015

Marbled White - Stockbridge Down - 6 July 2013

Photo © craigbirdphotos
06-Jul-2013

Marbled White Basking in Early Evening Sun - Wingate Quarry, Co Durham - 12th July 2012

Photo © Graham Beckwith
12-Jul-2012

Marbled White (male), Chiddingfold Forest (5 July 2012)

Photo © Mark Colvin
05-Jul-2012

Marbled-White- 5D31188

Photo © IainLeach
Cambs, June 2015

Marbled White - imago - Stockbridge Down - 29-Jun-11 (8)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Marbled White Pair - Birling Gap, Sussex 13-July-06

Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Jul-2006

Marbled White - female - Woodhenge - 19-06-2014

Photo © Wurzel

P1000094d, Marbled White, Oaken Wood, 30/06/2011

Photo © Pauline
30-Jun-2011

Marbled White Female - Birling Gap, Sussex 13-July-06

Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Jul-2006

Marbled White male - Rewell Wood, Sussex 20-June-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
20-Jun-2014

Marbled White - imago - Farley Mount Country Park - 27-Jun-04

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jun-2004

Marbled White - imago - Bentley Wood - 27-Jun-04

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Jun-2004

Marbled White - female - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014

Marbled White, Hadleigh Castle Country Park,Essex. 28 June 2012.

Photo © essexbuzzard
Hadleigh Castle Country Park, Essex. 28.6.2012.
28-Jun-2012

Marbled White (male), Chiddingfold Forest (7 July 2012)

Photo © Mark Colvin
07-Jul-2012

Marbled White Male - Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire 20-June-07

Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Jun-2007

Marbled White pair, Fairmile Bottom, Sussex 26-June-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
26-Jun-2014

Marbled White

Photo © Gruditch
23-Jun-2007

Photo Album (46 photos) ...


Ovum

The white spherical egg is laid in a curious manner - the female does not lay on the foodplant, but simply drops the egg while perched on a grass stem or while flying in suitable habitat. The egg stage lasts around 3 weeks.

Marbled White - ovum - Thatcham - 01-Jul-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Marbled White - ovum - Thatcham - 11-Jul-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Jul-2016

Marbled White - ovum - Thatcham - 20-Jul-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2016

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


Larva

The larva emerges from the top of the egg before eating the eggshell. It enters hibernation without further feeding, tucked away deep down in a grass clump. The larva emerges in the spring and early instars rest head down on a grass stem during the day, occasionally nibbling at the leaf. More mature larvae typically spend the day hidden away, head down, at the base of the stem, feeding only at night. The larva has two colour forms - being either a light green or a light brown. Prior to pupation, the larva will descend to the base of the stems.

The primary larval foodplants are Red Fescue (Festuca rubra), Sheep's-fescue (Festuca ovina), Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) and Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus).

Marbled White larva, brown form. 11/4/2014. Seaford, East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
11-Apr-2014

Marbled White larva. Green form. 8/4/2014. Seaford. East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
08-Apr-2014

Marbled White - larva - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jun-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jun-2015

Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 11-Jun-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Marbled White - larva - Stockbridge Down - 17-May-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-May-2015

Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 17-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-May-2005

Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 11-Jun-11 (4) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Marbled White - larva - Stockbridge Down - 11-May-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2015

Marbled White larva, brown form. 11/4/2014. Seaford, East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
11-Apr-2014

Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 10-Jun-06 (0255) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2006

Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 3/6/2014.

Photo © badgerbob
03-Jun-2014

Marbled White - larva - Stockbridge Down - 11-May-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2015

Marbled White - larva - Stockbridge Down - 17-May-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-May-2015

Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 29/4/2014.

Photo © badgerbob
29-Apr-2014

Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 10-Jun-06 (0254) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2006

Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 3/6/2014.

Photo © badgerbob
03-Jun-2014

Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 01-May-05 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-May-2005

Marbled White larva, green form. 11/4/2014. Seaford, East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
11-Apr-2014

Marbled White larva, green form. 8/4/2014. Seaford. East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
08-Apr-2014

Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 29/4/2014.

Photo © badgerbob
29-Apr-2014

Photo Album (22 photos) ...


1st Instar

Description to be completed.

2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

3rd Instar

Description to be completed.

4th Instar

Description to be completed.

Pupa

The pupa is formed loose on the ground, or under soil or moss, without attachment to any surrounding vegetation. This stage lasts around 3 weeks.

Marbled White - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Jun-06 (0347) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Jun-2006

Marbled White - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Jun-06 (0348) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Jun-2006

Marbled White - pupa - Stockbridge Down - 23-Jun-90 [REARED] [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Marbled White - pupa - Thatcham - 08-Jul-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Marbled White - various - Thatcham - 08-Jul-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Marbled White - pupa - Stockbridge Down - 02-Jul-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Marbled White - pupa - Stockbridge Down - 02-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

No similar species found.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Boisduval (1833) Boisduval, J.A. (1833) Icones historiques des Lépidoptères d'Europe nouveaux.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Meigen (1828) Meigen, J.W. (1828) Systematische Beschreibung der Europäischen Schmetterlinge: mit Abbildungen auf Steintafeln.
Petiver (1695-1703) Petiver, J. (1695-1703) Musei Petiveriani centuria prima-decima, rariora naturae continens.
Petiver (1717) Petiver, J. (1717) Papilionum Britanniae Icones.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Ray (1710) Ray, J. (1710) Historia Insectorum.
Samouelle (1819) Samouelle, G. (1819) The Entomologist's Useful Compendium.
Verity (1913a) Verity, R. (1913) Revisione dei Tipi Linneani dei Ropaloceri Paleartici. Bollettino della Societa Entomologica Italiana.
Westwood (1841) Westwood, J.O. (1841) British Butterflies and their Transformations.
Wheeler (1903) Wheeler, G. (1903) The butterflies of Switzerland and the Alps of central Europe.
Wilkes (1742) Wilkes, B. (1742) Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies.
Wilkes (1749) Wilkes, B. (1749) The English moths and butterflies: together with the plants, flowers and fruits whereon they feed, and are usually found.