General Question

nebule's avatar

Can I nurse a butterfly back to health?

Asked by nebule (16446points) September 25th, 2010

I’ve found a butterfly in my garden with a slightly broken wing. I was photographing him when I noticed his plight. I held my hand out and he hopped on so I brought him inside and have put him on a plant. It’s rather cold and breezy outside so I’m a bit reluctant to just put him in the garden.

Could I nurse him better do you think and if so how? I have a bit of long standing fascination and love of butterflies and don’t want to just abandon him.

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29 Answers

Seek's avatar

After a butterfly’s wings are damaged, there’s no fixing them.

Most butterflies only live a few months anyway, unless they’re hibernating over winter – then they might get eight or nine.

This person seems to think they have a way to repair a broken wing. Might be worth a look.

nebule's avatar

hmmm…glueing seems a bit severe doesn’t it… it’s not too broken to be honest but cutting the other wing to balance it out just seems purely cruel :-/

Coloma's avatar

I’d just keep it comfortable and maybe offer it some fruit, apple slice or orange or a small sponge soaked in sugar water.

@Seek_Kolinahr is right. Most Butterflies have very limited lifespans, and it might be on it’s way out anyhow even if it was not impaired by a broken wing.

nebule's avatar

Thanks @Coloma I shall get some orange and apple for the little soul! He seems happy enough at the moment!

nebule's avatar

…he is enjoying the orange! Thank you x

El_Cadejo's avatar

Since they have such a short life span and their wings cant really be repaired, I say you just keep em as a super cool little pet until his time comes.

nebule's avatar

…he’s wandering around now, having a little explore and sat on my hand for ages and wouldn’t get off I need to get a life!

El_Cadejo's avatar

no way, thats totally cool, id love a little pet butterfly.

Jude's avatar

”…he is enjoying the orange! Thank you x”


nebule's avatar

:o) He flew a little bit earlier and seemed to like sitting on the faucet but has found himself a nice little niche on a leafy branch with his orange…I like he might be sleeping now. I’ll let him rest tonight and see if he wants to go out tomorrow, thanks all xx

nebule's avatar

…oh…apparently they don’t sleep , rather; they become quiescent…how beautifully put

JilltheTooth's avatar

This is cutest real-time drama thread I’ve seen here. Lurve to @nebule and her butterfly rescue!

nebule's avatar

@JilltheTooth aaah thank you, it is rather nice having a butterfly in the house, he’s still quiescent! I don’t know, intuitively I feel almost like he knew where to come to be looked after, which might sound a little bit crazy, but maybe that is so. I was in the kitchen washing up when I noticed him on the netting of Theo’s trampoline with his wings extended, he was so beautiful and colourful in my dull little garden, when I opened the back door to go and take pictures of him, he closed his wings but up close their wings are still very beautiful on the underside too, which is when I noticed his wing. I didn’t expect him to come to me but apparently they are sometimes attracted to the salt in the sweat of human skin and from what I know; salt is a healer. Hopefully he will live longer than expected and perhaps fly tomorrow properly.

Jude's avatar

My favorite question of the week right here.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I should take lessons in quiescence from our little friend.
What kind is he? Can you put up a pic?

nebule's avatar

He’s a red admiral..I’ve just uploaded up some photos onto my blog here

JilltheTooth's avatar

Fabulous! Thanks!

MissAusten's avatar

If you google Monarch Watch and visit their forums, you can read posts from people who have repaired butterfly wings. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve read reports of it working on that site.

Keep in mind that this time of year, most butterflies start to die off. They’ve laid their eggs, most of which have hatched and grown into caterpillars that will overwinter in a chrysalis. I don’t think red admirals migrate, which means when their time is up they just fade away and die. If yours is at the end of its life, at least you’ve provided it with a peaceful way to go!

nebule's avatar

@MissAusten Thank you! x I do feel that the experience has given me a more profound respect for small creatures..I just found a slug on my kitchen floor pushing along a stray pistachio nut from me dinner preparation. I would have normally pick the little beggar up and put him in the bin or something even worse… but I’ve discovered a humility about’s just another being trying to live. Why should we infer that they have no consciousness of what is happening just from the fact that they don’t have the same neural networks as we. Consciousness after all isn’t explained on the fundamental life experience level. Thank you all xxx

MissAusten's avatar

Oops…I stand corrected. According to this red admirals do sometimes migrate!

Coloma's avatar


Hah! I just got home and reading this unfolding is just awesome!
Awwww…bless the butterfly and I am thrilled he ate his orange! Very cute!

wilma's avatar

I think you are correct @nebule, butterflies do know where to come to be looked after.
I have had butterfly “friends” every summer for about 10 years. They would wait for me on the clothesline and land on me when I went near them. One time one was at the end of it’s life.
It had been visiting me all summer. It was very weak and landed on my hand and didn’t leave. I couldn’t put it down, so I held it until it died. I could tell by it’s eyes, when it was dead, they clouded over.
I buried it under the butterfly bush in my back yard.
I’m glad that you are enjoying your little friend, it’s quite a special thing.

Serevaetse's avatar

It seems like you’ve gotten plenty of great answers- but just wanted to say, I think that is so sweet of you!! (:
I am the same way (I won’t even kill spiders that I find in the house- I catch them in a cup and release them) and so it is nice to see somebody who cares about tiny life as much as I do.

I have always heard that there is no helping them- even if they loose that ‘dust’ on their wings, it’s irreparable and can cause their flight to be impaired.
I hope he is doing ok- and again, just wanted to give you some recognition for being so caring!!

Coloma's avatar


I’m typing on my laptop right now with a moth resting on the screen. lol

nebule's avatar

Just a quick check in as I need to go to bed as I’ve been revising like a mad woman… but wanted to let y’all know that the butterfly is still alive, feeding on apple, sitting on my windowsill and looking very pleased with himself. Can’t believe he’s still going, but I’ve grown very attached and hope that he’s with me for many more days! xxx Thanks all for your help!! xxx

Jude's avatar

^^Made me smile.

ClarissaExplainsItAll's avatar

A damaged wing can actually heal. Just put him in a shoebox (no lid) and put down cotton balls soaked with water for it to drink. Maybe even put some sugar in the water you use to soak it with. Find out what butterfly it is too. You should bring it the flowers it would norm feed from as well.
And try to keep him from climbing too much. He will just fall down eventually and hurt himself.

PS Don’t forget that if the wing is 100% gone, it will not grow back.

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