Romy McCloskey has a good reason to cherish butterflies. Few of nature’s perfect creations are quite as endearing as butterflies.
Sadly, Romy lost her mother to cancer several years ago and just before she passed, her mom reassured her that her spirit would linger on after.
“She told me, ‘Romy, don’t worry. Whenever you see butterflies, just know it’s me checking in on you to let you know I’m OK, and that I love you,’” Romy said.
Rather than merely depend on encounters with butterflies, Romy took it upon herself to make sure the world has more of them. Whenever she finds caterpillars in her garden, Romy brings them inside to metamorphosize and keep them safe from predators and other threats.
And then she lets them go.
Romy said she has successfully raised and set free dozens of butterflies. However, recently, one emerged from his cocoon needing a helping hand.
The butterfly’s upper and lower wings on one side had were torn. He was otherwise healthy, but that malady meant he could never fly or survive on his own.
“I couldn’t bring myself to put him down,” Romy said. “I figured I would keep him inside and feed him until he died.”
That’s when she got another idea.
Romy’s friend learned about the situation and sent her a guide for repairing butterfly wings. She gathered the things she’d need: a towel, wire hanger, contact cement, toothpick, cotton swabs, scissors, tweezers and talcum powder.
Romy kept the body of another butterfly who did not survive and from this, she’d craft a transplant wing.
She gently secured her delicate patient between a loop in the wire hanger, then carefully cut away the damaged portion of his wings.
Though this might seem like a painful procedure, it’s actually not, because trimming damaged wings to make repairs is rather like getting a haircut.
Using as much care and precision as possible, Romy glued pieces from the transplant wing into place with the contact cement. Once secured, a few sprinkles of talcum ensured that any unwanted stickiness around the edges would be lessened as it dried.
The butterfly was looking almost good as new.
After a day of post-op rest, and a hearty meal of nectar provided by Romy, the butterfly’s big moment arrived. When he went outside for the first time, he got to use his new wings.
“I was nervous for him, but encouraged him as one would their child learning to ride a bicycle,” Romy said. “I was amazed and relieved to see him make his first lap around the yard.”
After that initial lap, the butterfly then landed on a branch.
“When he landed I thought I’d have to take him back in,” Romy said. “But just as I was about to reach for him, off he went and kept going. I felt really happy. And happy doesn’t adequately describe it. I have no other words. I soared with him for sure.”
Romy said because of the comfort they bring to her, butterflies will always have special meaning for her.
“With each one I release, I tell them I love them and wish them luck on their journey,” Romy said. “To watch such a thing grow and transform in front of your eyes is pretty incredible.”
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