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Marbled White

Marble White Butterfly

Melnargia galathea – Female

This morning I reluctantly trudged through the mud down to Jones’s Mill nature reserve to do my monthly Riverfly survey. To be honest I’m not always in the mood for it and sometimes would rather be doing something else, like laying in bed. It can get a bit monotonous in as much as I can pretty much predict the result and quantity of each of the eight species I’ll record. I guess there’s only so many river invertebrates you can count before you start to lose the will to live. Yet the sun was doing it’s best to steam some puddles and as I splashed across Big 40 towards the wood my mood was lifted by the sight of dancing butterflies, a mixture of orange-splashed Meadow Browns and bitter-chocolate Ringlets. To lift my damp spirits further, just as I started my first kick-sample I flushed a metallic blue-green Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly Calopteryx virgo from the reeds. Sadly my camera was in my rucksack. Not a lot of use in there is it?

After lunch I drove up to Morgans Hill to complete a combined butterfly and bumblebee survey. Almost immediately I saw what I’d been hoping to see, the Marbled White Melanargia galathea. Although obviously called a white, it’s technically one of the browns. Confusing this Lepidoptera business isn’t it? I’d hoped to get a photo with its wings folded but typically they were happier to sunbathe with wings outstretched, and who can blame them after all this rain? My reason was entirely selfish, it’s just easier to tell the male from the female by looking at the underwing. The hindwing of the female is often slightly yellower than that of the male. The uppersides are very similar although I understand the female is slightly greyer than the male, but then you really need to see them side by side. I thought initially that this was a male but subsequently I’ve been informed by Phil Corley via the Twittersphere that it’s a female.

As for bumblebees I spotted quite a few cuckoo bumblebees this time, Bombus bohemicus or vestalis and the orange-tailed rupestris. But I’ll have to carefully check my photos as I find cuckoos equally tricky to identify.

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