Professional costume designer and master embroiderer Romy McCloskey, 43, has always had a special place in her heart for butterflies.
Her mother passed away from cancer years before, but left McCloskey with a beautiful reminder that she was always there.
“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,’” she said.
So in October of 2017, mother-of-two McCloskey began raising caterpillars she accidentally found in her backyard. She decided to learn the correct way to raise the caterpillars and release them as butterflies.
She brought them into her home so that they could safely metamorphosize without threats from predators and weather.
And since then, McCloskey has been able to raise and release dozens of Monarch butterflies successfully.
A few weeks ago, her cat Floki thought the cocoons were toys and knocked one of them to the ground. The butterfly inside didn’t survive.
But another one that Floki swatted was left damaged with a large crack in it. “I thought, ‘please don’t let it die,'” said McCloskey.
So when it was finally time for the butterflies to emerge, she kept her eye on the cracked cocoon.
The eight other butterflies emerged and took flight. The one with the cracked cocoon miraculously survived, but he emerged with a mangled wing.
McCloskey knew the butterfly would never be able to fly on his own, let alone make the annual Monarch migration to Mexico with his broken wing.
But she knew her experience with intricate bead work could come in handy and so she set out to repair his wing on her own.
Using the instruction of a video from the Live Monarch Foundation, she gathered the tools needed and a “prosthetic” wing from a female butterfly that had died days before.
Romy learned that the migrating Monarchs don’t have nerve endings in their wings, so the procedure wouldn’t hurt the creature. And if successful, the surgery could extend his life by up to six months.
She immobilized his body with a wire hanger and began the process of gluing the donor wing on.
“You have to be sure the donor wing you have fits,” she said. “It overlaps by less than a millimeter, and I used the tiniest bit of glue. It is such a scant amount of glue.”
But thankfully, after a careful 10-minute surgery, the butterfly was looking as good as new. And the female butterfly who had died was given a second chance to take to the skies, too.
“My heart broke because I thought she hadn’t gotten to fulfill her purpose in this world because she hadn’t gotten to fly outside,” McCloskey said.
“Funny how life shows you there’s a plan for everything~ She has given a wonderful gift of flight to this little guy and gotten her chance to fly outside too!”
McCloskey left the butterfly in a cage overnight and checked on him in the morning. And when she saw him moving, she knew he was ready to try and fly.
She went out and released the other eight butterflies, hoping the ninth would follow suit. And he did!
“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.”
McCloskey hasn’t seen the butterfly since then and hopes he has successfully made his migration journey. “Hopefully he’s having a margarita down in Mexico with his buddies,” she joked.
And in the end, she is glad to have put her skills to great use to save her butterfly. “I felt really happy. And happy doesn’t adequately describe it,” she said. “I have no other words. I soared with him for sure.”
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