Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)
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2017 photographs highlighted in yellow. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.
In great numbers almost everywhere, sometimes in thousands, and probably the most common butterfly in France. Its numbers tend to obscure the fact that this is a very beautifully-marked butterfly, upperside and underside, especially the more creamy-white females. It is also quite a variable butterfly, the markings ranging from quite unmarked to heavily marked.
A close relative, the Esper's Marbled White (M. russiae) occurs in parts of southern France (but not in Var), although I only managed to see russiae for the first time in 2014. These two fly together, but it is fairly easy to identify them in the field as galathea is noticeably smaller and darker.
There is a not uncommon form of galathea known as leucomelas in which the
unh markings are
greatly reduced, sometimes almost pure white.
Lafranchis implies that this form is confined to females (well, not categorically -
he says that some females are of this form). However, 36575 is very white and,
this colouring would strongly indicate male in the nominate form, why not also in the
leucomelas form? An internet search yielded no additional information.
There are also dark forms that occur in Europe, especially magdalenae which is almost completely black and occurs in north-eastern Italy according to T&L. There is also the dark form procida with extensive black markings (although not as complete as in magdalenae); according to T&L it occurs in central Italy and other locations to the east. However, this form has been recorded in Provence and 26160 below could be considered as semi-procida.
a male, based on body shape.
|26160||M||a quite heavily marked male, which could be considered as halfway to the dark form procida, described above.||1400|
|35471||M||similar to 26160, a nice fresh dark male.||220|
|41293||M||a fresh male, perhaps slightly darker and creamier white than the norm.||1120|
a female, based on body shape, and quite lightly marked.
|41063||M||a male underside, beautifully white and crisp of a specimen that I suspect had just emerged.||1490|
|26296||M||a male, quite heavy dark markings in comparison to the typical pattern||910|
a male, based on the darker, more contrasting, markings c.f. 6417 below.
probably a male, as it appeared to be taking salts, something galathea seems to do rarely, showing the appealing creamy white colouration.
a mating pair, the rather paler, browner, female on the left.
probably a female based on the lightness of the markings.
of unknown sex, possibly male based on the well-contrasted markings and white ground colour.
|36575||?||a very good example of the form leucomelas, with the unh almost pure white and devoid of any markings. However, does the pure white colour indicate male, as would be the case for the nominate form? If so, then it is possible for males to also be of the form leucomelas.||320|
|40900||M||I'm not actually sure why I labelled this as male, as the yellowish colour suggests female, and there is question of whether males can be of the form leucomelas.||1220|
|40940||F||almost certainly a female of the form leucomelas.||1220|