Melanargia galathea

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Marbled white
Marbled white (Melanargia galathea) male.jpg
Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire
Melanargia galathea bottom MichaD.jpg
female underside
Sindelfingen, Germany
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Melanargia
Species: M. galathea
Binomial name
Melanargia galathea
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The marbled white (Melanargia galathea) is a butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. Found across most of Europe, south Russia, Asia Minor and Iran. There is an isolated population in Japan. It is not found in Ireland, North Britain, Scandinavia (except Denmark) and Portugal or Spain. Despite its common name and appearance, this butterfly is one of the "browns", of the subfamily Satyrinae.


Found in forest clearings and edges, meadows and steppe. Occurs up to 1,500-1,700 m above sea level. They are a common sight in unimproved grasslands across southern Britain, particularly on the South Downs, but also extending slightly further north to places such as the Dunstable Downs.

Life history[edit]

Like other members of its subfamily, the larvae feed on various grasses. These include Phleum (Phleum pratense), Poa (Poa annua, Poa trivalis), Festuca rubra, Bromus erectus, Dactylis, Brachypodium pinnatum, Agrostis capillaris. It is thought that red fescue Festuca rubra is essential in their diet.[by whom?]

Eggs are laid on the wing, or from brief perches on grass stems, and are just sprinkled among the grass stems. Upon hatching, the larvae immediately enter hibernation, and only feed the following spring when the fresh growth occurs. They are a lime green colour, with a dark green line running down the middle of their back. Pupation takes place at ground level in a loose cocoon. Adults emerge in July, and, on a good site, in warm, sunny weather, thousands can be seen gently fluttering amongst the grass heads.


  • Melanargia galathea galathea Europe, south Urals
  • Melanargia galathea donsa Fruhstorfer, 1916 Caucasus
  • Melanargia galathea lucasi (Rambur, 1858) North Africa
  • Melanargia galathea satnia Fruhstorfer, 1917 (= njurdzhan Sheljuzhko) Caucasus Major and Minor
  • Melanargia galathea tenebrosa Fruhstorfer, 19171.

Similar species[edit]

The Iberian marbled white Melanargia lachesis replaces M. galathea in Spain and South France.

Range expansion[edit]

The late twentieth century saw an expansion of its range in the UK.


The marbled white was called "Our Half-mourner" by James Petiver, (1717), "The Marmoris" by Benjamin Wilkes and "The Marmoress" by Moses Harris.[1]



External links[edit]