Woman Performs Wing Transplant On Injured Butterfly, With Amazing Results

Here’s a story that should cheer you up. An injured Monarch butterfly got a second chance at life after a woman took pity on the insect and performed a wing transplant using just a handful of household objects. 

Romy McCloskey “fell into” raising butterflies when she came across a pair of caterpillars loitering on a bush in her backyard.


When this one emerged from his cocoon with a massive tear in his right upper and lower wing, she took it upon herself to fix it with a spare butterfly wing. It had belonged to a female butterfly who had very sadly died a few days earlier.

Also in her toolkit, she had a towel, a toothpick, a pair of scissors, tweezers, a wire hanger, contact cement, a cotton swab, and some talc.

The operating room sans tools, transplant, and patient. Romy McCloskey/Facebook

First, she secured the butterfly with the wire hook. Then, she removed the damaged parts of the wing. (“Don’t worry it doesn’t hurt them. It’s like cutting hair or trimming fingernails,” she explains in a Facebook Post.) Finally, she fit the new wing onto the old.

McCloskey might not be a surgeon or a veterinarian but she is no amateur when it comes to intricate jobs that require a steady hand and a gentle touch. Her skills as a professional costume designer and master hand embroiderer no doubt came in handy when she was stitching up a delicate butterfly wing.


"I figured, since I do so much designing, cutting and putting together of costumes... I could give this a go. And I'm really glad I did!" she said.

She was quick to specify that the tear was sustained while pupating into his chrysalis and not from of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). OE is a parasite known to infect Monarch and Queen butterflies, which can result in deformities. It is also fatal.

Monarchs have a lifespan of two weeks to nine months, depending on the time of year. This little one was just three days old when he went under the surgeon’s knife – or scissors, to be more specific. The following day, McCloskey gave the patient nectar and time to rest.

Patient post-surgery. The line might be visible but this butterfly now has a pair of fully-functioning wings. Romy McCloskey/Facebook

His new wing might not be a seamless fit and, as McCloskey points out, he’s missing the black dot on the lower right wing typical of male Monarchs, but it works. After a quick spin around the garden, he flew off. 


"We had a successful flight! A quick spin around the backyard, then a little rest on one of the bushes... then... 'like the down of a thistle'... off he flew!" said McCloskey.


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