A wildlife volunteer was able to save the life of an injured butterfly by carrying out an intricate wing transplant.
36-year-old Katie Van Blaricum says that she first noticed a Monarch butterfly with a piece of its wing missing while working at her local zoo.
She immediately decided to try and repair the damaged wing out of fear that it would lead to an early death for the insect.
“I was helping the zoo tag the butterflies when a lady came up to me and said that one of them had a broken wing and said she would have to put it in the freezer,” explained Van Blaricum. “I had already repaired a wing in the past so she asked me to help this one—so I took it home with me.”
Armed with a glass plate, tape, and pins, Van Blaricum got to work and managed to hold down the butterfly long enough to glue on a piece of wing taken from a dead butterfly.
Van Blaricum, who is from Kansas, usually works with dead butterflies through her jewelry and picture frame business called Insect Art.
“I have a lot of dead butterflies in my house so I had lots of options to choose from. I managed to find one that was the same size and shape that could work,” says Van Blaricum. “Butterflies can be slowed down a little bit if you put them in the refrigerator, but not for very long, so I put glass plates over the top of it to keep in place.
“I cut off the broken bit of wing and glued on the other wing which came from a Graphium butterfly. Then I held it for a few seconds.”
A butterfly has four wings; two forewings and two hind wings which are attached to segments that use its muscles to move the wings up and down.
After her swift—and successful—repair of the butterfly’s left forewing, Van Blaricum let it go after several days of recovery and watched in awe as it flew up into the trees.
“It was quite stormy for a few days so I ended up keeping it over the weekend for two or three days and fed it so it would be ready to fly again,” she recalled.
“When we finally went out, it just flew up into the tree and used the wind to help it fly.”
Despite finding a parallel between the wing transplant and her Insect Art business, Van Blaricum says that the two practices aren’t very similar.
“I’ve got thousands of dead insects in my basement, but the two don’t really link up,” she mused. “The insects I use come from insect farms where they are specifically bred for this process they are not taken from the wild and we’re not hurting the wild population.”
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