Romy McCloskey, a professional costume designer, and master hand embroiderer was ready to help a butterfly in distress. Her supplies included a towel, a wire hanger, contact cement, a toothpick, a cotton swab, scissors, tweezers, talc powder, and an extra butterfly wing from one of her little girls that died a few days before.
“I have always had a love for butterflies,” she said. “They have a very personal meaning to me. Before my mother died, almost 20 years ago, she said to me, ‘Romy, whenever you see a butterfly, know that I’m there with you and that I love you.’”
Monarch butterflies can live from 2 weeks to about 5 months, but one particular butterfly was injured so badly, he could not fly. Romy McCloskey was there to help. “I fell into raising butterflies by accident when I found 3 caterpillars on a bush in my front yard,” she said. Romy knew she had to help and then turned her home into an operating room using common household items to perform a wing transplant.
According to McCloskey, butterfly wings are like human nails or hair and there’s no need to drug the butterflies when performing such a procedure: “They do not have pain receptors.”
“[P.S.] I feel it is important to note that the butterfly sustained his injury during pupating into his chrysalis. It was not a genetic defect or deformity due to the Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) parasite that fatally infect Monarchs. I did have a lot of people asking why I would ever introduce inferior or defective genes into the butterfly gene pool. I had to explain to many that I did not. In fact, any caterpillars or butterflies that are infected with OE or Tachinid fly (T-fly) larva must be euthanized to stop any further contamination in the Monarch population.”
“The patient: this 3-day-old little boy was born with torn upper and lower wings. Let’s see how we can help!”
“The operating room and supplies: towel, wire hanger, contact cement, toothpick, cotton swab, scissors, tweezers, talc powder, extra butterfly wing.”
“Securing the butterfly and cutting the damaged parts away. Don’t worry it doesn’t hurt them. It’s like cutting hair or trimming fingernails.”
“Ta-da! With a little patience and a steady hand, I fit the new wings to my little guy.”
“The black lines do not match completely and it is missing the black dot (male marking) on the lower right wing, but with luck, he will fly.”
“FLIGHT DAY! After a day of rest and filling his belly with homemade nectar, it is time to see if he will fly.”
A quick lap around the yard and a little rest on a bush, he was off! Surgery was successful!
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