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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Marbled White - imago - Pamber Forest - 29-Jun-08 (1)
Wingspan
Male: 53mm
Female: 58mm
Photo © Pete Eeles
Marbled White

Melanargia galathea
Number: 59.012
B&F No.: 1620
Family:Nymphalidae (Swainson, 1827)
Subfamily:Satyrinae (Boisduval, 1833)
Tribe:Melanargiini (Wheeler, 1903)
Genus:Melanargia (Meigen, 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 (1913) 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 - Oaken Wood, Surrey 29-June-2011
Female Underside
Photo © hideandseek

  Phenology  

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.


  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.

  Larval Foodplants  

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

  Nectar Sources  

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.

  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.


Marbled White - Under wing
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
05-Jul-2009
Marbled White Female - Woldingham, Surrey 28-June-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jun-2010
Marbled White Female - Birling Gap, Sussex 13-July-06
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Jul-2006
Marbled White Male - Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire 20-June-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Jun-2007
Marbled White Male - Woldingham, Surrey 21-June-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Jun-2009
Marbled White Female - Woldingham, Surrey 28-June-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jun-2010
Marbled White (male), Chiddingfold Forest (5 July 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
05-Jul-2012
Marbled White - imago - Bentley Wood - 27-Jun-04
Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Jun-2004
Marbled White - imago - Crabtree Plantation - 23-Jun-06
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jun-2006
Marbled White - imago - Farley Mount - 23-Jun-05
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jun-2005
Marbled White - imago - Farley Mount Country Park - 01-Jul-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Jul-2008
Marbled White - imago - Farley Mount Country Park - 27-Jun-04
Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jun-2004
Marbled White - imago - Pamber Forest - 29-Jun-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2008
Marbled White - imago - Pamber Forest - 29-Jun-08 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2008
Marbled White
Photo © Gruditch
23-Jun-2007
Marbled White - imago - Stockbridge Down - 29-Jun-11 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
Marbled White (male), Chiddingfold Forest (5 July 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
05-Jul-2012
Marbled White Female - Oaken Wood, Surrey 9-July-2011
Photo © hideandseek
09-Jul-2011
Marbled White Female - Oaken Wood, Surrey 29-June-2011
Photo © hideandseek
29-Jun-2011
P1000094d, Marbled White, Oaken Wood, 30/06/2011
Photo © Pauline
30-Jun-2011
Marbled White mating pair, 5/07/2012, Hants
Photo © Pauline
05-Jul-2012
Marbled White Female - 04-07-2012 - Woodhenge, Durrington, Wiltshire
Photo © Wurzel
Marbled White Basking in Early Evening Sun - Wingate Quarry, Co Durham - 12th July 2012
Photo © Graham Beckwith
12-Jul-2012
Red mite(?) on Marbled White, Prestbury Hill Reserve, Glos 26/7/12
Photo © jamesweightman
26-Jul-2012
Marbled White sheltering. Prestbury Hill Reserve, Glos 26/7/12
Photo © jamesweightman
26-Jul-2012
Marbled White (Female), Twywell Hills and Dales 14/07/2013
Photo © DerekLees
Marbled White - Castle Hills, Solihull 20.07.2013
Photo © nfreem
20-Jul-2013
Marbled White - Stockbridge Down - 6 July 2013
Photo © craigbirdphotos
06-Jul-2013
Marbled White - Stockbridge Down - 3 July 2013
Photo © craigbirdphotos
03-Jul-2013
Marbled White, male, Chalton Down, 14/06/2014
Photo © Pauline
14-Jun-2014
Marbled White. 23/6/2014. High and Over, Seaford. East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
23-Jun-2014
Marbled White - female - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14-2
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014
Marbled White - female - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014
Marbled Whites mating. 12/7/2014. Seaford.
Photo © badgerbob
12-Jul-2014
Marbled White male - Rewell Wood, Sussex 20-June-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
20-Jun-2014
Marbled White pair, Fairmile Bottom, Sussex 26-June-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
26-Jun-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Unclassified Aberrations


Marbled white - Middlebere, Dorset - 14-07-11
Photo © Stufus
ab. marconi or ab. nigrata
14-Jul-2011
Marbled white (underside) - Middlebere, Dorset - 14-07-11
Photo © Stufus
14-Jul-2011

  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

  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.


Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 01-May-05 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
02-May-2005
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 10-Jun-06 (0254) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2006
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 10-Jun-06 (0255) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2006
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 17-May-05 (4) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-May-2005
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 17-May-05 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-May-2005
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 11-Jun-11 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 11-Jun-11 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
Marbled White - larva - Thatcham - 11-Jun-11 (4) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
Marbled White larva, green form. 8/4/2014. Seaford. East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
08-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva. Green form. 8/4/2014. Seaford. East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
08-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva, brown form. 11/4/2014. Seaford, East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
11-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva, brown form. 11/4/2014. Seaford, East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
11-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva, green form. 11/4/2014. Seaford, East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
11-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 29/4/2014.
Photo © badgerbob
29-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 29/4/2014.
Photo © badgerbob
29-Apr-2014
Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 3/6/2014.
Photo © badgerbob
03-Jun-2014
Marbled White larva. Seaford. Sussex. 3/6/2014.
Photo © badgerbob
03-Jun-2014

  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

  Similar Species  

No similar species found.

  Videos  

Video © John Chapple
Marbled White.

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Arlington Reservoir, Ashampstead Common, Aston Rowant NNR, Badbury Rings, Ballard Down, Bannerdown, Banstead Downs, Banstead Woods, Barnack Hills and Holes NNR, Beachy Head, Bentley Wood, Bernwood Forest, Bindon Hill, Box Hill, Broughton Down, Butchershole Bottom, Calstone Coombes, Chambers Farm Wood, Collard Hill, Darlands Banks LNR, Denbies Hillside, Ellerburn Bank, Ewyas Harold Common, Farley Mount Country Park, Fridaythorpe, Greenscombe Woods, Higher Hyde, Hod Hill, Horsenden Hill, Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit, Laughton Common Wood, Little Breach, Lower Woods, Lydden Down, Magdalen Hill Down, Malling Down, Millenium Arboretum, Nupend Wood, Old Down, Basingstoke, Old Winchester Hill, Pembrey Country Park, Pewley Downs, Powerstock Common, Prestbury Hill, Stockbridge Down, Stony Green Hill, Sutton Bingham Reservoir, Therfield Heath, Thixendale, Totternhoe Knolls and Quarry, Ufton Fields, West Yatton Down, Whipsnade, Whiteford Burrows, Windmill Hill and Cleeve Prior, Windover Hill, Winsdon Hill

  Conservation Status  

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

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Not ListedStableDecrease

From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.
Verity (1913) Verity, R.: Revisione dei Tipi Linneani dei Ropaloceri Paleartici. Bollettino della Societa Entomologica Italiana. 1913.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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