Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 48–58 mm; the fringes conspicuously light-and-dark banded. Slender-bodied to medium built; short-bodied. The eyes glabrous. Antennae reaching noticeably less than halfway to the wingtips. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate; not curved; not flattened (tapered to the dark tip). Labial palps ascending. Having only 4 fully developed legs. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 94–98 degrees. The outer margins convexly curved; scalloped to not scalloped (scarcely so). Uppersides of the forewings white and black, or white and fuscous, or cream and black, or cream and fuscous; contrastingly dark-veined; without eye-spots (but usually with a small, round dark spot perceptible against the dark background near the apex); without a discal mark; black with white or cream makings in the form of a blotch towards the base, in iregular postmedian series of connected blotches, several usually contiguous spots towards the apex, and a terminal series of spots.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded; with the outer margins scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings white and blackish, or white and fuscous, or cream and blackish, or cream and fuscous; conspicuously dark-veined; conspicuously patterned. Uppersides of the hindwings faintly eye-spotted, or not eye-spotted. The eye-spots if detectable, 1–3; mid-posterior to near the tornus. Uppersides of the hindwings without a discal mark; colour-patterned quite like the forewings, but more or less lacking the ante-apical spots.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings patterned as a pallid reflection of the uppersides, with the dark component reduced in extent and with a more prominently displayed apical ocellus; conspicuously dark-veined; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1 (small black, light-centred); posterior towards the apex.

Undersides of the hindwings colour-patterned more or less like the forewings, but the black ground more suffused cream or whitish, and exhibiting a posterior series of 3 or four blue-centred black spots, and a pair beneath the costa towards the apex; conspicuously dark-veined; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 3–6; near the mid-costa, mid-posterior, and near the tornus. Undersides of the hindwings without a discal mark.

Wing venation. Forewings 12 veined; with basally dilated veins; vein 12 basally dilated; the lower margin of the discal cell not dilated. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only; vein 1b simple. Forewings with a discal cell; vein 2 departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (from about halfway). Forewing veins 8 and 9 out of 7, 10 and 11 separate from the front of the cell.

Hindwings 9 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete. 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs almost barrel-shaped (but wider below the middle, with an apical depression); more or less smooth, or reticulate (very finely reticulated only). The larvae shortly hairy. On Gramineae.

Pupae smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned (whitish brown with pinkish tinge, briowner speckled on the wing cases, and the abdomen marked dorsally with yellow); without shining-metallic markings; concealed; not suspended, but hidden on the surface of the ground in leaf litter.

British representation. 1 species. Melanargia galathea (Marbled White). The adults abroad July and August.

Status in Britain. Indigenous.

Distribution. Northern England, English Midlands, East Anglia, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, and Isle of Wight. Frequenting open places. Habitats mostly calcareous.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Satyridae.

Illustrations. • Melanargia galathea (Marbled White): photos. • Melanargia galathea (Marbled White: Giles Watson, photos). • Melanargia galathea (Marbled White): egg, larva, pupa. • Larva and pupa of M. galathea: Duponchel (1849). • Melanargia galathea (Marbled White: Hübner/Curtis).

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.