The case of the butterfly wings

The other day, while perusing the state of my Brandywine tomato plant, I noticed an odd sight at the edge of the pot. There, in the dirt, were two, fully intact butterfly wings.

Butterfly wings

I didn’t flip either of them over to check and see if, you know, one of these wings is not like the other, but from the looks of it, they are the fully intact wings of two separate butterflies. The markings look far too dissimilar for them to be the same insect.

I’m puzzled by this development. What could have killed these in such a manner as to preserve an entire wing…or two? And why?

Where are Sherlock Holmes or Jessica Fletcher when I need them?

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17 Responses to “The case of the butterfly wings”


  1. 1 Michelle June 6, 2007 at 6:58 am

    That’s so sad. I’m wondering if it’s a big spider? That’s something that wouldn’t eat the wings. Got any huge scary spiders anywhere?

  2. 2 steven June 6, 2007 at 7:25 am

    I’m voting on a spider somewhere, as for Jessica Fletcher; there was an awful lot of crime in Cabot Cove that she rather conveniently solved. Pretty fishy if you ask me.

  3. 3 inadvertentgardener June 6, 2007 at 8:50 am

    Michelle and Steven, oh my God. A spider? That ate the butterfly bodies? Are you kidding me? And it’s probably on my tomatoes?

    This is supposed to be comforting? Yikes… Seriously…huge scary spiders? TOTALLY not my thing. I’m a complete girl like that.

  4. 4 steven June 6, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Spiders are your friends, unless they’re the deadly poisonous kind, then they’re like neighbors you wave at, but don’t know their names. Think of all the other bugs the spider is eating that aren’t eating your veggies. Too bad spiders don’t eat basil-eating slugs and snails.

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener June 6, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I know, I know…all this is true. I still freak out. Totally freak out.

    Such. A. Girl.

  6. 6 Heather June 6, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Wait until you get a spider bite like I did 2 weeks ago. As you go through the pain, numbness, blister, and now lovely scab, try going anywhere near a plant without long sleeves and gloves on! And spiders freaked me out before the bite, imagine my squeals of terror now.

  7. 7 inadvertentgardener June 6, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Heather, see, that’s exactly how I feel about it. The last time a spider bit me, I had the biggest, hugest bruise on my thigh ever. Totally freaky. Plus, spider bites usually just make me itch like crazy…less pain, more itch.

  8. 8 Jenny June 6, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    I laughed out loud when I read your responses to the comments to this post b/c I knew, knew, knew that even the thought that you might have to deal with a big ole spider in your tomato plants would totally creep you out (of course, it would creep me out, too, but that’s why I don’t garden).

  9. 9 inadvertentgardener June 6, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Jenny, you’re so right. Sheesh. I have about as much interest in coming across a spider in my tomatoes as I do in finding a snake.

    Gaak. Gaak. Gaak.

  10. 10 kate June 6, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    That is plain scary – I think you might need to employ some sleuthing techniques to catch the culprit in action. I hope you don’t find anymore butterfly wings though!

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener June 7, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Kate, if the sleuthing techniques involve getting bitten by a spider, I’m probably going to pass…

  12. 12 steven June 7, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Maybe you have an adorable insectivorous marmoset that’s escaped from a zoo living in your garden? Feel better now?

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener June 7, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Steven, absolutely. I would much, much, much rather have a marmoset. MARMOSETS RULE. :-)

  14. 14 kat e June 7, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Love your blog!

    I just wanted to ask if you’d actually turned the wings over at all? Because the 2 sides of the same butterfly’s wing can look really different…

  15. 15 inadvertentgardener June 7, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Kat, you know…as I was staring at the photo, I had the exact same thought. I’m sorry to report that no, I didn’t flip ’em. I should have, though. Next time…

    Thanks for the visit and for the shout-out!

  16. 16 Aquarianmind August 7, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Hey there strangers…

    I came across this post randomly, but I think I can solve your mystery. The year my father died I was sitting at my parents’ kitchen table and saw a bird land on a lilac bush outside the window. I paid special attention to that lilac bush because giant moths would land there every night, and I would often go out and catch and photograph them. The night before this story I found a very large moth and had taken several pictures. Anyway, it was very early in the morning when this bird landed on the bush. It sat for just a moment, then snatched what I believe was the very moth I’d photographed up in it’s beak, jumped down on the ground, beat the moth against the ground 2 or three times and gulped down it’s body. I was quite shocked because I’d never seen a bird do this before, and this bird obviously knew to do this exact thing to get the desired results. I immediately walked outside and, there where the bird had been lay a set of perfectly intact (though missing a body) wings. I have them on my wall to this day.

    Spiders tend to leave a carcass – all dried up and empty after a good draining. :D

  17. 17 inadvertentgardener August 7, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Aquarianmind, thanks for the explanation! That’s totally bizarre…and very interesting!


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