Esper's Marbled White (Melanargia russiae)

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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.

35677_male_Drôme_28Jun14

40957_male_Drôme_5Jul16 38371_female_Drôme_10Jul15
40968_female_Drôme_5Jul16 38303_female_Drôme_9Jul15 38401_female_Drôme_10Jul15

35622_female_Vaucluse_27Jun14

35627_female_Vaucluse_27Jun14

40905_female?_Drôme_4Jul16
 
40989_female_Drôme_5Jul16 41019_female_Drôme_5Jul16  

This is a butterfly principally of the northern Iberian peninsula, with separated European colonies in Italy, the Balkans and in the far south of France. It is almost instantly recognisable from its close cousin, the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) by its apparent whiteness and its size, it being slightly larger than galathea. From the underside, the discal line is made up of a series of rounded markings whereas galathea has a discal line that narrows almost to a line in the central region. It is quite scarce in France, being found only (or mainly) in the north of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and surrounding regions. It is the subspecies cleanthe that occurs in France.

I had not seen it before 2014 despite several searches, and the male and female on this page represented the only two I had seen. However, in 2015 on a longer stay in the region, russiae appeared in several locations, indicating that, as is often the case, that when you find a localised species, it can be quite common in its restricted area. Even on 9/10 July it was getting toward the end of its flight period. In 2016 it was actually quite common in a certain location, and a search of the region in about a 10km radius showed that it occurred right across this region.

 

Like most Satyridae species, its larval hostplant is a species of grass; for russiae it is Tor grass (Brachypodium Pinnatum).

ref

sex

observations

alt. m

35677

M

a male, taking shelter deep in the grass in high winds. The delicate markings make this a very aesthetically-appealing butterfly. Further experience of this species in subsequent years indicate that 35677 is a particularly white individual.

1220

40957 M a very dark male, so much so that close inspection was necessary to ascertain that it wasn't in fact galathea. 1220

38371

F

a female, rather at the end of its flight period, definitely a little worn as the fringes testify.

1260

38303

F

a reasonably fresh female, settling down at the end of the day.

1220

40968 F a female, and, based on wider experience of this species, perhaps typical in terms of strength of markings. 1220

38401

F

another fresh female, which is actually one of a mating pair, the male being at 90 degrees to the female and almost completely obscured in this photograph.

1220

35622

F

a female, the characteristic discal line being a clear indicator of russiae, at least in France, as other species elsewhere in Europe are not dissimilar. 35627 is the same individual.

860

35627

F

a female egg-laying. It has a slight deformed hindwing. 35622 is the same butterfly.

860

40905 F? possibly a female based on the slight yellowness of the ground colour, but compared with the two images following, maybe not. 1220
40989 F a female based on the slight yellow-brown tinge. 1220
41019 F almost definitely a female as indicated by the strong yellow-brown colouring. 1220

 

35677_male_Drôme_28Jun14

 

40957_male_Drôme_5Jul16

 

38371_female_Drôme_10Jul15

 

40968_female_Drôme_5Jul16

 

38303_female_Drôme_9Jul15

 

38401_female_Drôme_10Jul15

 

35622_female_Vaucluse_27Jun14

 

35627_female_Vaucluse_27Jun14

 

40905_female?_Drôme_4Jul16

 

40989_female_Drôme_5Jul16

 

41019_female_Drôme_5Jul16