Thursday, June 23, 2011


What do you do when your youngest comes home with an injured butterfly?
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
We hummed and hahed about what to do with this mourning cloak  black swallowtail butterfly aptly named "Wings" by the classmate that found it and passed it on to my daughter (thanks for that!).  If you look closely you'll see it's right wing has a part missing leading to a very wobbly, short flight pattern.  All that rustling in the flowers is sure to attract attention from some would be predator.  Releasing it was not an option according to my kids.

Keeping it in a small plastic container with a couple of dead dandelion flowers didn't seem like a good option either.

It was time to Google "how to help an injured butterfly".  That search resulted in no less than 4.3 million results!  Wow!  (Make that 4,300,001 after this post!)

We learned:
  • hold a butterfly gently by its closed wings as close to the body as possible and as lightly as possible
  • butterflies need moisture/food, in the case of our mourning cloak decaying fruit or a "nectar" made of 3 parts water with 1 part sugar   in the case of our black swallow tail, dill, parsley or carrot family plants are preferred 
  • holding pens should be soft sided so wings aren't damaged further - no glass/plastic jars
  • thanks to one of our readers, we also learned that our butterfly is a black swallowtail not a mourning cloak - hence the crossed out typing above!
So, here's what we did:

We planted some flowering, butterfly friendly plants (transplanted from other areas of our yard) into a big container.  We put in several tall stakes and draped over some window screening that we had lying around.  We sealed the bottom around the container with duct tape.  There's an opening on one side that we can open and close with safety pins as needed.

Let's hope Wings enjoys the space - at least for a few days!
a new home for Wings
Our next butterfly adventure will involve the baby monarch caterpillars that we've discovered on our milkweed.  Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful butterfly, good luck with the rehabilitation! It's not a Mourning Cloak, they have a solid yellow border around the wings and a bit of blue on the inside edge of the yellow. I believe you have an Eastern Black Swallowtail or "Parsley Swallowtail".

Anonymous said...

p.s. you might want to stick some dill weed plants if you have any in his/her new home, if it's a female she may have eggs to lay.

Getty Stewart said...

Adele, you're right, it's a Black swallowtail butterfly! Oops! Guess we should also learn to properly identify our butterflies and provide the right conditions. Parsley and dill seem to be in order for "Wings".
And, based on what I've read the blue at the bottom suggests it's a girl.