Marbled White: This unmistakeable butterfly of unimproved tall grass grasslands, is found all across the Mendips and has, in the past been seen on Broadhay. Its black and white chequered pattern and name, as a ‘white’, obscures the fact that it is a ‘brown’! It is about the same size as a meadow brown which are themselves particularly abundant this year both in fields and even into gardens. Like the other browns, Meadow, Hedge, Ringlet and Small heath its caterpillars are grass feeders. The adults emerge from their pupae from mid-June and adults can be seen until the end of July. Once mated the female scatters her eggs amongst suitable grasses. When the eggs hatch the first stage larvae goes straight into hibernation buried deep in a grass tussock. In the following year in late January or early February, the larva starts to feed then moults, then feeds and moults two more times. Each time the caterpillar transfers to increasingly coarse grasses before pupating at the end of May or beginning of June. There is, thus, only one generation each year. When walking on Mendip keep a good look out for them and you may notice that they have a special fondness for purple flowers like knapweed and scabious where they are easy watch and to photograph. The females have a yellowish front edge of the fore-wings and this yellowness also shows on their undersides.
Photos Peter Bright