This story didn't end so well. One of the stakes of out tent came loose, and this butterfly escaped. I searched but couldn't find him until the following day, when it was too late. It was kind of eerie, because I found him at the base of my dog's memorial tree on the anniversary of her death. It was the first time I have had a butterfly die, so it was hard.
I had a second butterfly with the same wing injury. I taped this one, and it looked really good but it was too heavy and he couldn't fly. I kept him inside in a mesh hamper from Ikea (we stopped using the tent after the other incident). He refused to eat in captivity, but he fed really well when I set him on our lavender plants, so I did that every day. After 9 days the tape came loose as he was fluttering around on the lavender. That night, the wing broke off where I had mended it. The next day when I put him out on the lavender, he started fluttering from plant to plant. After a while he began flying as high as about four feet off the ground. Then suddenly he took off and flew across our yard to our neighbor's rose bush, soaring up over our heads. Then he took off again, flying high out toward the street. He turned and came back, directly at my head. I thought he was going to land on me, but just before he got to my head, he veered off and disappeared behind a neighbor's house. It was like he came to say goodbye to me before he left.
I was astonished that he could fly. He had less than half of his top right wing. After the repair broke off, he he flew almost as well as a whole butterfly, well enough that I couldn't catch him or keep up with him enough to keep him in sight.
This morning when I went to release my two butterflies from yesterday, one of them had the same wing injury. This one was never in the tent, only in the Ikea hamper that has housed every butterfly I have ever raised. I have never had one get injured in there. So now what do I do? Should I even attempt to fix the wing? Should I try to mend it with a much smaller piece of tape? Should I cut it off and see if she can fly without it? Should I wait until it tears off on its own? I really don't know what to do. I think my first one might still be alive if I hadn't try to fix him, and my second one wouldn't have had to live in captivity for 9 days. But I worry about releasing a butterfly with less than half a wing.
I'm also wondering why this is happening. I've never seen a wing injury before, but now three in such a short time. I thought it was because of the tent, but this third one was never in the tent. I don't know how this happened. In all three cases the wing was bent before it tore, kind of flapping in a direction it shouldn't flap. Is anyone else seeing this kind of thing happen? The third one I tested for OE and she is clear (I didn't test the first two). I am starting to wonder if something is making their wings weak and if this might be related to why I can't find any eggs or caterpillars.
When I have time to download my camera, I will add photos here.