It’s that time of year again! The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and the leaves are back on the trees. Ahhhh Spring has sprung! Perhaps my favorite part of spring is welcoming the wide assortment of butterflies that come to visit us in our back yard to snack on one of the Crepe Myrtles or get a drink from the birdbath.
Sadly, from time to time we encounter a butterfly that has been injured. I like to think the injury was a result of some type of West Side Story butterfly street fight but more likely it was just due to the excessive enthusiasm of a two year old with a net and bad aim. There’s not much sadder than the sight of a beautiful butterfly grounded due to a torn wing.
Fortunately, last spring, when visiting grandparents in Arizona, we spent a wonderful afternoon at the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, so we’re all pretty much butterfly experts now.
So last weekend, when my daughter ‘rescued’ this injured butterfly, thanks to our intensive one-day immersion course at Butterfly Wonderland, coupled with supplemental information from Dr. Google, we were prepared to come to the aid of this helpless creature.
Step 1: Find an Injured Butterfly. Spring & summer offer the perfect combination of butterflies and unsupervised children with an abundance of free time outdoors. Believe me, you’ll find one.
Step 2: Convince at least one parent that this butterfly is worthy of rescue. Be sure to give them your sweetest, sad-eyed face (you know the one) and then work up some heart-warming back story about how scared and lonely this butterfly must be. Then seal the deal with horrific predictions of what will happen to it if you don’t immediately intervene on its behalf.
Step 3: Give the Butterfly a Tour of Your House. His friends and family may still have the gift of flight, but my guess is that they haven’t had the gift of being forcibly escorted around a 9 year old’s house while her mother Googles “what do butterflies eat.”
Step 4: Offer protection from the elements (and from the two cats who have taken a particular interest in the pretty-orange-flappy-thing that’s sitting in the middle of the kitchen counter.)
Step 5: Feed your butterfly. Much like mommy, butterflies get most of their nourishment from drinking instead of eating, (but they use a proboscis instead of a wine glass.) Butterflies taste through their feet, which you should absolutely not try to do if you want mom to keep humoring your butterfly rescue efforts.
They mostly feed on nectar, pollen, rotting fruit and dung. Fortunately in our home we have an abundance of the last two.
After feasting on your generous buffet of butterfly gluttony, your butterfly will no doubt be thirsty. Be sure to stare at him really closely like a big, scary giant while he enjoys his stagnant bird-bath water beverage.
Step 6: Give your butterfly a name That way when your butterfly inevitably croaks the next day (did I ruin the ending?) you’ll have a nice way to refer to him throughout the entire next year….as in “remember that time when we thought Flappy flew away but then found him laying dead in the grass?”
Step 7: Encourage your mom to attempt the butterfly wing transplant procedure detailed at this site. Realize that this procedure would require having a stockpile of spare butterfly wings and likely result in you gluing your butterfly ‘patient’ to you, itself, some cat fur and/or the kitchen counter. (More of my thoughts on this procedure below.)
Step 8: Convince your mom that what would really make your butterfly feel at home is a true butterfly garden. This part costs approximately $85 and you should be prepared for your mom to inform you that this butterfly garden now officially counts as your birthday present and you’re in charge of watering it for the rest of your life.
Step 9: Present your butterfly with his/her very own deluxe butterfly garden where he can live out his final days (or day, as the case may be) in pure butterfly bliss.
Step 10: Officially begin conversion of ‘Butterfly Garden’ into ‘Butterfly Memorial Garden” with a touching eulogy from your little brother: “I know why he died. You fed him too much!”
All joking aside, I remember each of my childhood attempts to rehabilitate cute little birds that smashed into our sliding glass window. My mom humored me as I built them little nests and secured them in our cat’s pet carrier. Now that I’m a mom, I realize that she likely spent the majority of this process dreading both the sadness and the corpse disposal that would inevitably be the final steps of this project.
And as much as I cherish the generous love that children have for all living things, I do have to admit that I draw the line at attempting the butterfly wing reconstructive surgery mentioned in Step 7 (although I’m glad there’s someone out there who has mastered it and is helping the butterflies that I cannot.)
In case you care to try it, here are the instructions from LiveMonarch.com with a few edits and questions that I had as I reviewed them.
I hope that you’ll remember these handy tips the next time that you encounter an injured butterfly. And if you happen to be brave enough (and own enough pairs of tweezers) to attempt the wing replacement surgery, you must absolutely take pictures and tag me at https://instagram.com/thedustyparachute/
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xo - Susanne