Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: European Species: Species Account - The Marbled White:
Marbled White
Melanargia galathea (Linnaeus, 1758)
Marbled White
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Nomenclature
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae : Subfamily Satyrinae : Genus Melanargia: Species galathea:
Description
The Marbled White is one of our most distinctive butterflies and is unique in terms of its colouration and wing pattern. It is an attractive black and white butterfly which is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. Its is commonly encountered in grassy meadows and will often feed on purple flowers such as Knapweed Thisles Scabious and Marjoram. It is however classified as a 'Brown' butterfly of the family Satyrinae as its life cycle and habits are very similar to other grassland 'Browns' such as the Ringlet Meadow Brown, and Gatekeeper.

Adult butterflies may be found roosting halfway down tall grass stems although they are well camouflaged. On dull days, they can often be flushed from tall grass as you walk through.

Marbled Whites are often seen with small scarlet red parasitic mites attached to their bodies. These parasites Trombidium breei feed on the blood of the living butterfly and in small numbers do not pose a threat to the butterfly's life. A major infestation may however kill the butterfly. It is thought that male butterflies tend to have a higher insidence of infestation. See
'Parasitism by the mite Trombidium breei on four UK butterfly species by Conradt, Corbet, Roper and Bodsworth 2002.
Habitat
The Marbled White occurs as discrete colonies on unimproved grassland where a wide range of grass species especially Red Fescue occurs forming a tall sward that is rarely cut or grazed.

Large colonies tend to be found on unimproved chalk or limestone grassland, but it may also occur in woodland rides and clearings, waste ground, road verges, and railway embankments.
Other notes
This species is widespread in southern Britain and has expanded northwards and eastwards over the last twenty years despite some losses within its range.
Wingspan
53-58mm
 
Larval foodplants
The full range of larval food plants is not known as the larvae of the Marbled White feed on a wide variety of grasses. This is primarily because the adult female butterflies do not lay their eggs directly onto the larval food plant. Instead they drop the small white circular eggs as they flutter through tall grass.

Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) is thought to be an essential food plant while it is know that Sheep's-fescue (Festuca ovina) Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) is also used.
References
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.
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Photographs of the Marbled White
Image ID BB2202 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White male (imago)
BB2202 ©
Image ID BB2201 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White male (imago)
BB2201 ©
Image ID BB2200 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White male (imago)
BB2200 ©
Image ID BB1814 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1814 ©
Image ID BB1813 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1813 ©
Image ID BB1812 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1812 ©
Image ID BB1802 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1802 ©
Image ID BB1801 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1801 ©
Image ID BB1800 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1800 ©
Image ID BB1799 - Marbled White - © Steven Cheshire
Marbled White female (imago)
BB1799 ©
There are 46 photographs of the Marbled White in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Marbled White as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 11 named aberrant forms of the Marbled White currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. aperta - Rebel 1910
ab. citrana - Lambillion 1906
ab. flava - Tutt 1896
ab. galene - Ochsenheimer 1808
ab. leucogonia - Collier 1952
ab. marconi - Frohawk 1938
ab. minor - Pionneau 1927
ab. mosleyi - Oberthür 1909
ab. nigrata - Schröder 1924
ab. nigricans - Culot 1911
ab. rubra - Mosley 1896