Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

12002_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_5Jul08 26160_male_Alpes-Maritimes_02Jul11 35471_male_Var_18Jun14
41293_male_Isère_11Jul16 8084_female_Côte-d'Or_8Jul07 41063_male_Hautes-Alpes_8Jul16
26296_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_03Jul11 12888_male_Drôme_12Jul08 22798_male_Isère_19Jul10
6417_pair_Var_3Jun07 16564_female?_Var_23Jun09 22419_sex?_Hautes-Alpes_16Jul10
36575_sex?_Côte-d'Or_25Jul14 40900_male_Drôme_4Jul16 40940_female_Drôme_4Jul16

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 says 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 would strongly indicate male in the nominate form, so 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.

ref sex

observations

alt. m
12002 M

a male, based on body shape.

1580
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
8084 F

a female, based on body shape, and quite lightly marked.

320
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
12888 M

a male, based on the darker, more contrasting, markings c.f. 6417 below.

1210
22798 M

probably a male, as it appeared to be taking salts, something galathea seems to do rarely, showing the appealing creamy white colouration.

1120
6417 PAIR

a mating pair, the rather paler, browner, female on the left.

140
16564 F

probably a female based on the lightness of the markings.

450
22419 ?

of unknown sex, possibly male based on the well-contrasted markings and white ground colour.

1000
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 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

 

12002_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_5Jul08

 

26160_male_Alpes-Maritimes_02Jul11

 

35471_male_Var_18Jun14

 

41293_male_Isère_11Jul16

 

8084_female_Côte-d'Or_8Jul07

 

41063_male_Hautes-Alpes_8Jul16

 

26296_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_03Jul11

 

12888_male_Drôme_12Jul08

 

22798_male_Isère_19Jul10

 

6417_pair_Var_3Jun07

 

16564_female?_Var_23Jun09

 

22419_sex?_Hautes-Alpes_16Jul10

 

36575_sex?_Côte-d'Or_25Jul14

 

40900_male_Drôme_4Jul16

 

40940_female_Drôme_4Jul16