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First Aid for Butterflies

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First Aid for Butterflies

Call me a wimp, but it breaks my heart to see a butterfly, lethargic and struggling, on its last wings, so to speak. It makes me feel beyond helpless. So I was surprised to learn recently that there are things one can actually do to help out a butterfly in distress. Who knew? I have to say, this made me very happy, if not a little guilty about the butterflies I’ve unwittingly left in the lurch in the past.

If you find a butterfly with a torn wing, you can tape it! I kid you not. You can try to carefully use a small bit of lightweight transparent tape to mend the wing. This may allow the butterfly to fly again and to live long enough to reproduce–it may even let it live out its normal lifespan.

Another good trick, according to my butterfly bible, The Family Butterfly Book, written by Rick Mikula (whom I like to call the Butterfly Whisperer): You can  feed a weak or injured butterfly a diluted sugar water; sometimes just plain water can be enough.

Follow these steps:

1. First of all, learn how to handle a butterfly. (Rubbing the powder off the wings will not prevent it from flying.) Be sure that your hands are dry. With your thumb and index finger, grasp the butterfly by the wings just above the body and as close to the butterfly’s shoulders as possible. Very light pressure is needed. If the butterfly seems agitated, turn it upside down. This will immediately calm it down.

2. Place the patient’s feet on a moistened pad that has been saturated with feeding solution (mix one teaspoon of sugar in one cup of filtered water).

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

721 comments

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5:40AM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

thank you for the interesting article 20/7

2:15PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Good article,very helpful,thanks for sharing

4:06PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Had no idea! Thanks for article on how we can help beautiful butterflies :)

8:54PM PDT on May 2, 2013

Thank you for the instructional post. I'm amazed that we can actually help a butterfly. I'm ready to nurse any butterfly that needs help. (p, t)

8:02AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

hvala

2:06PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

ty

8:17PM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

I did not know this, and am now informed...thanks

1:59PM PDT on May 30, 2012

i'd be scared to tape a wing...

1:26PM PDT on May 30, 2012

An interesting thing when I rescued a butterfly some years ago - the butterfly was the whole summer in my near (I remembered the one, cause one wing was a little damaged, but he was able to fly away...

1:25PM PDT on May 30, 2012

An interesting thing when I rescued a butterfly some years ago - the butterfly was the whole summer in my near (I remembered the one, cause one wing was a little damaged, but he was able to fly away...

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