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How to hold a Butterfly

Many of us learned as children that when scales come off a butterfly's wings, it can't fly. We also learned that if a butterfly wing is broken or damaged that the butterfly can't fly. The good news for butterflies is that they can fly with up to 75% of their wings broken or missing and without scales!

No, scales and wings will not grow back.

When a bird or lizard grabs a butterfly and gets a grasp on its wings, its a good thing that pieces of their wings can break and they can fly away instead of becoming lunch for a hungry critter!

If you are handling a butterfly, there is a safe way to handle it without damaging its wings. Even though they can fly with missing scales and damaged wings, there isn't a need for us to start or add to this damage.

Please use 'legs' method of holding a butterfly only with Monarch and Queen butterflies. Other species have fragile legs and may fly away leaving their legs behind!
To prevent scales from coming off, hold a butterfly
between your fingers as in this photo.
Holding the butterfly between a thumb and finger
can lead to this scale damage.
To hold a butterfly as in the previous photo
gently grasp the Monarch's legs.
ONLY Monarch and Queen butterflies please!
Grasp the legs close to the
body of the Monarch.
This can damage other species of butterflies.
It will not harm a Monarch.
Release the Monarch's wings and it will 'pose' for presentations.
This method of holding a Monarch allows
children and adults to closely view
the beautiful details of a butterfly.
The scent scales of a male Monarch
are easliy seen with this method of presenting
a butterfly during a presentation.

This Spicebush Swallowtail visited our Abelia flowers for days before disappearing. Butterflies can sustain much damage and still function well. (Remember, holding any species other than Monarch and Queen with this method may damage the butterfly.)

Special thanks to Rick Milkula, Hole in the Hand Butterfly Farm, for demonstrating this method of holding a butterfly.