Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Marbled White:
Marbled White
Melanargia galathea (Linnaeus, 1758)

Marbled White egg.
  Marbled White caterpillar.
  Marbled White chrysalis
Marbled White
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Satyrinae : Genus Melanargia: Species galathea:
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.
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.
Found throughout most of south and central England and parts of south Wales. It is currently absent in Scotland, however it seems with global warming that this species is slowly colonising new sites as it moves northwards.
Where to see the Marbled White in the British Isles
Found throughout most of south and central England and parts of south Wales. It is absent in Scotland... however it seems with global warming that this species is slowly colonising new sites as it moves northwards.
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.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Marbled White in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
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.
British subspecies
Melanargia galathea ssp. serena (Verity, 1913)
Occurs in the UK.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -15%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 up by 129%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Marbled White except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Marbled White on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Marbled White can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Marbled White can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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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