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Butterflies, unfortunately, are extremely delicate creatures, and they are often at risk of wing damage. It can be absolutely heartbreaking to see such a beautiful creature without both wings intact, and naturally, we want to do everything that we can to help them. But, do butterflies’ wings grow back on their own?
Butterflies can’t grow their wings back. Sadly, if they get torn, there’s no way to get that beautiful color and patterning back. However, the good news is that butterflies are perhaps a little more resilient than we give them credit for being.
Do butterfly wings heal?
Unlike human bones, butterfly wings have no way of healing. Many butterfly keepers and wildlife specialists are able to support damaged or injured butterflies with a little care and patience. However, it’s never the best idea to try and help your local butterflies on your own.
Some butterflies may need surgery if they damage their wings to a severe extent. However, some people claim that butterflies can easily flutter around with minimal damage, but they may be in trouble when they are heavily injured.
It’s sad but true – especially given how incredible butterfly wing development is during metamorphosis!
Can a butterfly fly with only one wing?
Sadly, it would only be able to hop around a little and would not be able to take flight. In fact, even walking around with one wing would be very difficult as butterflies use their wings to balance themselves.
As light as their wings are, the weight of one wing on one side with nothing on the other will lead them to tip and fall over frequently.
Sadly, since butterflies need to fly to get to their food source – a butterfly with one wing could easily starve to death if a predator on the ground does not eat it.
Do butterflies feel pain in their wings?
No – and this is the strange part. Butterflies can’t feel pain – period. Studies thus far suggest that, while butterflies do have complex nervous systems, they lack the capacity for pain reception. At worst, a butterfly is likely to feel very uncomfortable and struggle with balance if it tears or loses a wing.
Most butterflies live for about a month on average. So, as horrible as it may seem, their suffering with only one wing should not last for long. While it is never a good idea to try and repair a butterfly’s wing on your own, there are things you can do to help bring an injured creature some comfort.
How can I help a butterfly with a damaged wing?
When you can’t fix or support a butterfly’s broken wing, what you can do is offer it housing close to the ground. Before you do, try to carefully secure or retain the injured butterfly using the simple ‘bug trap’ technique – a glass and a piece of card will do – that way, you can keep the insect out of further harm’s way.
A butterfly house can be something as simple as a cardboard box with fabric secured over the top. You can consider setting up twigs or small pieces of wood for your butterfly to climb up and down – but remember, they won’t be able to recover if they fall from too great a height. You can then place your butterfly in its new home, safe from any further harm or potential threats.
You may wish to mix some sugar water in your butterfly house to help feed and water the injured specimen. This will act as a nectar substitute when they cannot eat or drink from plants. However, be sure to use natural white sugar, and only a small amount (e.g. 10%) with water will be adequate.
A good way to feed butterflies using sugar water is to soak cotton – such as buds or balls – in the solution. With any luck, the butterfly in your house will happily sup from the cotton. Sugar water tends to be well-loved amongst butterflies – short of there being nectar in the area, of course.
Unfortunately, there is not much beyond these rehabilitative tips that we’re able to offer from our own gardens. However, take heart in the fact that butterflies won’t suffer too harshly if they tear or break their wings. If you want to welcome butterflies to your yard, it still pays to know what you can do to help one if you see an injured specimen.