Disabled butterfly gets prosthetic wings in delicate surgery that saved its lifeBy Mustafa Gatollari
May 10 2022, Published 11:00 a.m. ET
When people discuss healthcare, they're more than likely talking about all of the prohibitively expensive costs of care in the US when it comes to humans, but there's also the difficult subject of caring for animals. For the most part, animal care is privately funded or heavily predicated on donations and even then, there are usually only certain animals that have procedures performed on them that will greatly improve their quality of life.
No one really thinks of the obstacles that insects face when they lose or injure an appendage, what with their short lifespans and all, but there are some people who go out of their way to care for them. And an interesting phenomenon that's been documented a few times on the web is the delicate procedures performed on our lepidoptera friends: butterflies.
A man by the name of Anthony Tracey, also known as the "Gamer's Guild Librarian" shared a story on Imgur about a male monarch butterfly that emerged from its Chrysalis stage with a deformity: a four-way crippling of its wings, meaning that it'd be impossible for the insect to do what it was re-born to do: and that's fly.
So the Burger Butterfly Garden decided to take matters into his own hands and give this butterfly, William, a second chance at its new life: by attaching four artificial wings to its body. The process was a painstaking effort of love that allowed this mail to fly and have offspring of his own.
Anthony delineated the story and the different stages of prepping William for surgery.
"The Burger Butterfly Garden received a request for aid just before Thanksgiving last year. A male monarch specimen had had a failed eruption from his chrysalis, leading to a quadruple crippling of his wings," Anthony wrote.
"The wings of a butterfly exit the chrysalis with a texture similar to wet veneer or cellophane. If the wing material touches the wrong surface or settles back on itself the wing will harden in that position, causing the butterfly to be permanently disabled without intervention."
If you're wondering how they were able to get William to sit still the answer was simple: putting him in the freezer.
"William was placed in a freezer for 10 minutes. There's not really a 'safe' anesthetic measure for an insect, but being chilled will place the butterfly in suspended animation. William was clipped of all hardened wing tissue that was safe to remove and an appropriate piece was left behind to adhere artificial wings to his back."
The wire was then used to keep William in place during the procedure while ensuring that he wasn't harmed. Then, super glue was attached to his clipped wings while the prosthetic ones were attached.
It took about 2 hours total of work under a light and magnifying glass, and then the tiny droplets of crazy glue needed to be gently sanded down so as not to hurt William, but all in all, the surgery was a success.
"William gained limited mobility within the facility's enclosure. Using his new wings and big willy style William was able to even successfully pair off at least twice, leading to breeding and a possible 200 larvae to continue his heritage."
The Burger Butterfly garden posted a clip of William's successful surgery and when he was waking up from his freezer-induced slumber.
And while one might think that this is a lot of work for someone to go through in order to save a bug, one: I'm sure it meant a heck of a lot to William. And two: Monarch Butterflies are moving closer and closer to extinction, so the more diverse larva that can be produced for the species, the better chance we have at saving them.