Mother Monarch

Creative Heart Saves Butterflies

Nickole Kerner Bobley

Jun 05, 2018

McCloskey, whose embroidery and sewing work involves intricate handiwork, decided to give butterfly wing repair a try.

Romy McCloskey, a noted couture costume designer and embroidery artist who runs Faden Design Studios, was the right person in the right place at the right time with the right skills to repair the wing of an injured monarch butterfly making its way from the American north through her Alden Bridge yard on its way to Mexico.

Originally from Connecticut, McCloskey spent most of her childhood in a garden with her parents who owned a flower farm. She went on to study art at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design where she took the embroidery and clothes designing skills passed down from her grandmothers to new heights.

A few years later, McCloskey’s mother, Suzanne, passed away, but before she passed, she told her daughter to think of her every time she saw a butterfly. Last September, McCloskey noticed several caterpillars (insects that ultimately transform into butterflies) on the ground below a milkweed plant in her front yard. She remembered her neighbor had mentioned wasps were killing caterpillars in her yard. Without hesitation McCloskey carefully brought the caterpillars inside her home, put them in a tent and started what is now a personal passion—assisting in the raising and release of hundreds of healthy monarch butterflies.

“I feel like a butterfly doula,” laughs McCloskey. “I planted more milkweed plants to attract more butterflies, studied up on their needs and soon our yard qualified to become a National Registered Monarch Butterfly Way Station.”

A few months later, a male butterfly presented himself to McCloskey with a damaged wing. She posted about it on her personal Facebook page and was, needless to say, heartbroken at the thought he might die. A friend sent her a video on repairing butterfly wings. McCloskey, whose embroidery and sewing work involves intricate handiwork, decided to give butterfly wing repair a try.

First, she gently secured the male damaged-winged-butterfly onto a towel by shaping a wire hanger into a thin, long loop. Then, she carefully trimmed away the damaged wing area (a painless procedure). McCloskey happened to have kept a deceased female monarch butterfly from a few weeks earlier for inspiration for a line of dresses she hoped to make this fall. She removed a wing from the dead butterfly and, using a tiny amount of contact cement on a toothpick, affixed it to the living male’s damaged wing. Then she dusted the new, hybrid wing with talcum powder to prevent any accidental sticking. After the male butterfly rested in a soft mesh tent, she fed him a combination of raw honey, water and a few droplets of a sports drink. Afterwards, McCloskey released the butterfly into her backyard. She was amazed to see him fly up, up and into the air to join the others. The wing surgery was a success!

McCloskey posted her wing-repair story with photos on a few internet sites while her Facebook post about it was shared 22,000 times and liked by over 16,000 people. On Imgur it was seen almost 360,000 times! A few days later Newsweek and BBC Radio ran stories on McCloskey’s amazing helping hands.

“I think the butterfly experience brought me good luck. It has inspired a whole new wave of creativity into my work,” says McCloskey. “I’m forever grateful to these marvelous, colorful winged creatures of delight.” 

A few months later, kismet struck again when McCloskey was chosen to create a couture gown for an Academy Awards guest. Currently, McCloskey is working on a new line of embroidered ball gowns inspired by her love of monarch butterflies. 

To learn more about monarch butterfly conservation visit here.