So I was on my way home the other day, rather walking to the carpark when I noticed a couple of birds (they were mynahs I think) chasing down this large black butterfly. One of the mynahs managed to clip the butterfly in the end and it went plummeting to the ground in a flurry of its own torn wings. Naturally, one might think that this was all part of nature (the circle of life) and truly I would usually do nothing more than stand by and watch. But something clicked in me this time round and I went to the poor insect's aid. The birds, of course, reacted to my presence and I was able to get to the butterfly before they could close in for the finishing blow. I surveyed the insect and noted that the damage was pretty bad. More than half its wings had been torn off by the birds and it didn't seem to be able to sustain itself in flight.
Red Helen Swallowtail (Papillio Helenus)
Upon reaching home, I placed the butterfly in a tank and began searching for solutions online. Google, it turns out is most resourceful. I not only managed to identify the butterfly as a Red Helen Swallowtail (Papillio Helenus) but also several methods of "managing an injured butterfly." Alongside many articles recommeding me to put it out of its misery by sticking it into the freezer, I finally found one with a step-by-step guide on how to repair a butterfly's broken wings. All I needed was a fridge, some tweezers, waterproof glue and spare butterfly wings. Essentially I was to perform a WING TRANSPLANT! Already the theme song for ER played in my head, Cyren Wong, Butterfly Doctor. Briefly, the procedure involves sedating the insect by placing it in a cold environment for approximately five minutes, followed by clipping the damaged/crippled wing off and replacing it with a pair that is almost identical in size.
Meanwhile it was getting dark and I wasn't about to attempt surgery with shaky hands and tired eyes. I fed the butterfly a bit of my home-made nectar and decided to proceed with surgery the following morning. Meanwhile he bunked in my indoor butterfly flight with the tawny coster with the missing antenna I adopted last week. Unfortunately though, the bird attack must have damaged it more than just physically because I came back in the morning to find the poor swallowtail quite dead.
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust eh?
I preserved him, if only to make sure his death doesn't go to waste but also as a reminder to myself that sometimes you can't save them all. Meanwhile I'm sure there's a nest of hungry baby birds cursing me from the treetops somewhere.