Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

Marbled White - Melanargia galathea

The Marbled White is a resident butterfly with very distinctive black and white chequered markings on both sides of its wings, this makes them easy to identify.

Marbled White, WSBRC/John Notman

 

Habitat

Colonies of Marbled White can be found on unimproved grasslands throughout Wiltshire. They are found mainly on rough flowery chalk grasslands where they have a preference for purple flowers including thistles, scabiouses and knapweeds. They can also occur in woodlands, rides and clearings.

Description

Distinctive, bold chequered black and white markings make the Marbled White easily identifiable and unlikely to be confused with any other butterfly. The males and females are very hard to tell apart as they are very similar in appearance. There can be a slight variation in the colouring from black to brown, with the light areas ranging from white to cream.

Biology

Marbled Whites need a range of grass species, including Red Fescue, which form a tall sward which is grazed or cut so it is not too dense. Red Fescue is the main food plant on which its caterpillars feed in early spring; they are also known to feed on Tor-Grass and Yorkshire Fog.

The Marbled White first emerges in late June and can be seen until August throughout Wiltshire. The female drops her eggs randomly (rather than laying them) among the tall vegetation. As soon as the caterpillar hatches it goes into hibernation and will then start feeding on Red Fescue in spring when fresh growth occurs; they are lime green in colour with a dark green line running down the centre of their back. Cocoons are usually at ground level, the adults emerge in July and on a warm sunny day large numbers can be seen amongst the grasses.



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