You’ve heard about prosthetics for dogs, cats, and even goldfish. But one American woman made waves recently by creating a prosthetic wing for a monarch butterfly.
Romy McCloskey, a Texan woman with an independent costuming business, started raising monarch butterflies last October when she found several caterpillars on her milkweed bush. At first, she just kept them in a glass tank and made sure they were fed but, as she researched more about the needs of monarch caterpillars, she was able to give them more specialized care. But her recent generation was her most challenging yet; one of her butterflies hatched from its cocoon with a damaged wing.
She was initially “heartbroken” at the idea of having to euthanize the butterfly, but delighted when a friend sent her a video on repairing wings. “I figured, since I do so much designing, cutting and putting together of costumes…I could give this a go,” she said, in one of her Facebook posts on the subject. “And I’m really glad I did!”
Her butterfly surgery was a delicate operation. While she usually works with fabric, her prosthetic wing was made with a wing from a butterfly who died a few days earlier. She used tweezers to manipulate the wing into place, contact cement to stick it on, and talc to make sure any extra glue didn’t stick the wings together. And, although she used a wire coathanger to hold the butterfly down, she didn’t need to give it anesthesia. As McCloskey told Bored Panda, “They do not have pain receptors.”
And, finally, her efforts paid off. In an update several days later, she told her delighted audience that the baby butterfly had a successful flight: “A quick spin around the backyard, then a little rest on of the bushes, then…off he flew! My heart soared with him, for sure!”
McClosky’s rescue mission was met with an extremely favorable response online. Monarchs are classified as an endangered species, put at risk by illegal logging in their Mexican winter habitat, loss of their favored milkweed plants in their American summer habitat, and climate change. Conservationists and laypeople alike both applauded her efforts at restoring flight to the baby butterfly.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, McClosky revealed why the butterflies meant so much to her. “They have a very personal meaning to me,” she said. “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.’”