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DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

How to care for a butterfly/moth? Any ideas?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11205 points ) October 21st, 2011

I noticed a lovely butterfly or moth inside the house a few days ago. It’s cold here already. Its colors are beautiful. I left it alone and saw it again perched on a wall and then the next day, I found it on my desk. I tried to move it and it fluttered away.

Later, I found it near the floor and decided to leave it alone (as it was not in an area that gets traffic anyway.)

Today, it was still in the same place near the floor, but apparently in distress. I picked it up and carried it and placed it under a warm spot under my lamp. I have never cared for a butterfly/moth and certainly not as the weather turns cold.

Do I put it outside? Maybe on one of my plants? Do I feed it? I don’t want it to be in distress (if it is). I realize this sounds crazy…but I try to honor all the life in my house (even the spiders) and attempt to find ways to help them along. I have no idea of the lifespan of a butterfly/moth. (I am not sure which it is, because the wings are rounded, not sharp, and it has distinct “eyes” on the wings. Lovely orange and black color.) So, if I sound dim, I apologize, but I’ve never seen something that has butterfly colors, but has a moth’s rounded wings…therefore, not sure what it is.

Any info would be really appreciated. It seems to have closed up its wings and is just sitting quietly under the lamp at the moment.

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13 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

I’m not a lepidopterist, but I remember seeing the butterflies at the Smithsonian feasting on stone (IIRC) fruit.

You could cut open some fruit (perhaps a mango, peach, or plum), and leave it on a dish for your little guest.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Oh, splendid! I can try that, thank you, Brian!

Does anyone know if I should put it outside or…?

Brian1946's avatar

You’re most welcome!

I would suggest putting a little in the house as long as it appears that’s where it wants to be. Otherwise, put some fruit outside too.

However, if you have any cats or dogs, I would suggest denying them any access to that fruit, because some fruit can be toxic to them.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

No…lost my little dog…last year…:(

I put some maple syrup in a small bowl…apparently they like that, too. I drizzled a drop next to it.

Thanks again!

whitetigress's avatar

I used to hatch butterflies as a child. It can’t fly because it is too cold and it’s wings aren’t mature judging from your description of round wings. It’s most likely just hatched out of its chrysalis.

whitetigress's avatar

Keep it in a jar with some grass and put a cap of water in there as well as some honeysuckles, if you could get around to those.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Thanks so much for all the suggestions and information….hmmm…now it is on its side. I thought it might be dead, so I gently picked it up and it started flapping its wings again. Is it attempting to hibernate? And I’m just disturbing it? It’s lying on its side, motionless on my desk.

I think I will try to find a receptacle to put it in…if it is hibernating. Or sleeping. Although if anyone has any idea what exactly it is doing (besides flying to meet its Maker) please let me know.

whitetigress's avatar

Really only warmth and not too much heat, can help its wings mature. All of the food it ate as a catepillar is more than enough to give it energy through out its beginning stages of getting its wings to harden (getting the blood to flow maturely through out its wings)

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Thank you…very much….for your help. :)

Scooby's avatar

You can also feed them on a sugar & water solution…….

The solution should be replaced at least once per week and more often in warm weather because this solution will ferment (spoil). Try not to place the feeder in direct sunlight as this will only speed up the fermentation process.
Mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Boil this solution for a few minutes. Pour cooled mixture into your butterfly feeder. Store the rest in the fridge.

MissAusten's avatar

Can you post a picture? I’m very curious as to what you have there!

It sounds like your butterfly/moth might be fading, which is what naturally happens at the end of their life cycle. Most of these insects don’t migrate; they just die when the season is over. Their offspring spend the winter pupating and emerge in the spring. However, keeping it comfortable is a nice thing to do. :)

If it doesn’t seem to want to eat or know what to do with the fruit/sugar solution, you can help it along. If you look closely at its face, you’ll see a curled up black thing. This is its proboscis, which it uses like a straw to suck up nectar. If you gently hold the moth/butterfly (by the body, not the wings), you can use a needle or pin to uncurl the proboscis and dip the end into the food. If it is hungry, it will then keep its proboscis extended and continue to feed. I’ve done this many times with the monarch butterflies we raise so they can have a snack before they fly off!

Keep in mind thought that some moth species don’t have working mouth parts as adults and never feed. They do all their eating as caterpillars. These kinds of moths (like the luna moth) live a couple of weeks at most, just long enough to mate.

I like to use crushed up watermelon as a butterfly food. Some people use Gatorade or 100% fruit juice.

snowberry's avatar

Many butterflies this time of year are at the end of their life cycle. It sounds like it’s dying.

HungryGuy's avatar

When I was a kid, I collected some caterpillars and put them in an old aquarium. I “fed” them leaves, twigs, dirt, and whatnot. Eventually they turned into cocoons, which I threw away outside. The next spring, I had a gazillion moths on my bedroom window trying to get inside…

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