As a costume designer and embroiderer, Romy McCloskey is used to performing intricate needlework. McCloskey, of Faden Design Studios in Texas, also loves butterflies, and in early January, her two passions collided when she repaired a butterfly's torn wing.
McCloskey raises and releases monarch butterflies from her yard in a Houston suburb, a project she started after noticing some caterpillars there last September. She makes sure they are fed and cared for while they transform into butterflies, a task she told BuzzFeed "felt right."
"I knew that they were being threatened by mankind; I knew that we needed to help our pollinators for the survival of us all, but I didn't know just how much these little guys have stacked against them until I got involved in helping them. So, my garden grew, my knowledge grew, and my heart grew, more than I could ever imagine."
However, McCloskey's cat didn't necessarily have the same priorities, and it saw the cocoons as toys. It knocked one of the cocoons down and onto the ground.
"It had a crack in the cocoon," McCloskey told the Washington Post. "I thought, 'Please don't let it die.'"
When the butterflies emerged, the one from the knocked-down cocoon had a damaged wing, pictured above. Posting an image of the butterfly on Facebook, she asked for help. Not long after, a friend sent her a YouTube video showing all the steps necessary to repair a wing.
McCloskey didn't hesitate. She gathered the materials she needed — tweezers, scissors, glue, a wire hanger, talcum powder-coated cotton swabs and the remains of wing from a butterfly that had died earlier — and set to work.
"Because of the work I do, it was no-brainer," McCloskey told the Post.
She immobilized the butterfly by putting it under the wire hanger, and then she cut away away the damaged wing (it doesn't hurt the butterfly; McCloskey equated it to clipping a nail). After that, she glued the leftover wing onto the butterfly, applying talcum powder after the glue had dried so that the wings wouldn't stick together just in case spots of glue were still sticky.
"You have to be sure the donor wing you have fits," she told the Post. "It overlaps by less than a millimeter, and I used the tiniest bit of glue. It is such a scant amount of glue."
The operation, however, was a complete success.
McCloskey put the patient into a cage with food so it could take the night to, hopefully, recover.
"I woke up the next morning and said, 'Please be alive,'" she recounted to the Post.
Once she saw the butterfly was moving, she took the butterfly outside so it could, hopefully, fly away.
"He climbed on my finger, checked out the surroundings and then took off," she said. "He landed on some bushes, and sure enough, when I went to reach for him, he flew up in the direction of the sun."