The Marbled White is a distinctive and attractive black and white butterfly, unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. In July it flies in areas of unimproved grassland and can occur in large numbers on southern downland. It shows a marked preference for purple flowers such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds. Adults may be found roosting halfway down tall grass stems. 

Found in flowery grassland but may stray into gardens. This species is widespread in southern Britain and has expanded northwards and eastwards over the last twenty years, despite some losses within its range, with outlying populations in Yorkshire and SW Wales.

Size and Family

  • Family: Browns
  • Size: Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 53-58mm

Conservation Status

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: Low                          
  • European status: Not threatened

Caterpillar Foodplants

Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) is thought to be essential in the diet of larvae but Sheep's-fescue (F. ovina), Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) are also eaten. It is thought that several other grasses may be used, but the full range is not known.



Unimproved grassland with tall sward. The strongest populations are found on chalk or limestone grasslands but other habitats such as; woodland rides and clearings, coastal grassland, road verges and railway embankments are also used.


  • Countries: England and Wales
  • Southern and central England, north to Yorkshire, and South West Wales
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = +11%.

Marbled White - Bob Eade

Marbled White (Upperside)

Marbled White - Iain H Leach

Marbled White (Underside)

Marbled White (male & female) - Bob Eade

Marbled White (male & female)

Marbled White (egg-laying) - Gilles San Martin

Marbled White (egg-laying)

Marbled White (young caterpillar) - Bob Eade

Marbled White (young caterpillar)

Marbled White (caterpillar) - Bob Eade

Marbled White (caterpillar)

Marbled White (pupa) - Dean Morley

Marbled White (pupa)

Marbled White (pupa/developing) - Dean Morley

Marbled White (pupa/developing)

Marbled White (pupa/fully developed) - Dean Morley

Marbled White (pupa/fully developed)