Butterfly Wing Pictures


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Oct 18, 2005
There is a retailer that I do some framing for who has butterfly wing art. They are really beautiful works of art, but my first thought was, "how many butterflies were killed to make this?" I'm talking about pictures up to 20" x 30" completely made of butterfly wings in mostly abstract designs.

I was just wondering if any of you would hang such a thing in your gallery. Or, would you decline to frame such a thing as a protest to the inhumane treatment of animals?

OH MY! I don't think I'd be able to hang it. That's an unusual art medium if you ask me. I'd have to know how the artist got the wings.... but I don't think I even want to know .... maybe I don't even want to know this kind of art exists ... oh ... maybe I shouldn't have posted ...

The art comes out of Africa, but I can't remember exactly what Country. I could send you a picture of one via email, but it seems to me that you'd like to get this whole subject out of your mind.

Oh please DON'T! lol Sometimes it's better I don't know....

Carry on without me.
Alot of the butterflies and moths you see framed are now farmed by the natives. Someone came in and explained to them that it is to their benefit to raise them rather than just emptying the forest. They very quickly realized they could make alot more money this way. All of the ones I have bought have come from butterfly/moth farms.
Most of the ones I got come from Papua New Guinea.

As to the inhumane treatment of animals... oh, come on!! Please!! They are bugs not bunnies.
I may be wrong, but my understanding from when I first encountered this kind of art years ago*, is that the artisans gather the dead butterflies after they have mated and laid their eggs. They're much easier to catch then.

*I had much the same reservations about the work.
Most butterflies only live for 1-2 weeks as an adult.

Framers don't have to wait too long for their demise to collect those wings.
Hmmmm....I wonder if they are paid by the wing :rolleyes:
What's next...bird wings, monkey paws, cat's tongues? :(
Let's see.. when I was a kid, we could buy a monkeys paw or a rabbits foot so they aren't new, but I never heard of buying cat's tongues so maybe you could start a new fad!!
I framed a kitten once but the charges didn't stick and he walked.
Um Doug, that might have been a good entry in the contest next door.
Honestly, I'd have a hard time accepting & framing something like that.

How do we handle something that's an endangered species? Officially endangered, would get us in trouble with the law, by the way.

If I know that somebody went out and killed 5000 butterflies for this "art" I would throw them out of my shop. I have no respect for this kind of "art". I don't care how much profit this would cost me.

I'd rather die poor but with principles.

PS: And for those who said, well, there are millions of butterflies. OK, what's next, human skin? And why not, there are million of them too...
You mean you have a problem with harvesting dead butterfly wings?

I understand if they were being caught and tortured but after they are already dead?
These are very interesting comments. But it does seem to me that if the butterflies were already dead, it would be a good thing that their wings are used for a beautiful piece of art, a lasting monument to their beauty.

The problem is, one could never be sure if the butterflies were dead when the wings were harvested. And the thought of their wings being removed while they are alive, even if "there are millions of them" or "they're just bugs" is certainly disturbing.
they don't kill them.....

they go in and harvest the wings from all of the dead carcasses. The carcasses are returned to the forest floor along with the butterfly's or moth's soul, to enlargen the forest ki or spirit of the whole.

The wings are the "art" that the cuporial spirit excreeds into this plane of exsistance. So by making an art piece of hundreds of wings... is like making the Ki of a forest that is visual...
Baer, Is that what those guys that torture the butterflies told you? :eek:
Do you think George W would admit to butterfly torture...or is it just innocent interrogation?

If he does I think its time for the people to band together and get some anti-butterfly-legislation. I'm sure there are plenty of lunatic politicians dying to get in front of a camera and push a silly bill like it.

To tell you the truth I'm all for anti-butterfly-torture legislation. At least butterflies aren't on a mission to cut our head off!
I tried it once, and never again. Besides all of the reasons you've already mentioned, it gives me the creeps. Not wanting to offend the butterfly-wing-art collector (they might have other "stuff" to frame) I just tell them that butterfly-wing dust is impossible to keep off the glass, they fall off and I don't want to be responsible for trying to glue them back on! They're worse than dried flowers. Mostly, I just can't want to.
Originally posted by Doug Gemmell:
Baer, Is that what those guys that torture the butterflies told you? :eek:
We were privey to walking through one of the most heart breaking sights in Costa Rica.... millions of dead Monarchs carpeted the forest floor as dozens of people respectfully picked up only the dead ones and carefully clipped off the wings then placed the body back on the forest floor.

As we watched, one man picked up a butterfly and it twitched so he just held it in the palm of his hand and waited. He was it protector as it made the final journey.

For us, it was a very special and powerful site; as when we lived in Southern California, the Monarch flyway ran between our front door and the giant Alder in our front yard..

During the "fly", we would invite friends to come and just sit in the flyway and be surrounded by thousands of butterflys as they passed by almost silently. [I say "almost" because a thousand sets of wings can make an amazing noise]

Would I frame wing art....? have in the past and don't see a reason to not in the future.

Would I hang any in my house? Only if it was a photograph of the wings..... awe....nope. Just not our style.
I've never been real hot on commercializing insects, animals, birds, plants, etc. because there are always people who don't care how they get the specimen. Fashion can unwittingly create demand that fuels wreckless harvesting.

Habitat destruction and environmental change is creating more of a problem for butterlies than harvesting their wings. Butterflies require particular food sources at different stages during their lives, and it is getting harder to protect the landscapes and plants necessary to sustain sufficient populations.

I've framed lots of creepy crawly things. Even made a couple of desk sets that featured butterfly wings that were purchased through legitimate sources.

But I still prefer them alive, so I plant the right plants and provide the resources they require to help them breed in my yard. I highly recommend finding out what butterflies are native to your area, planting some of the food plants they require, and spending a little time watching them as they go about their too short lives.
Very thoughtful posts Terry and Baer!
Yeah... Good idea. Then we can come over to your yard and pluck the wings off of the ones you have growing.

Bring ear protection tho.. It's amazing how loud a butterfly can scream when you are tearing the wings off.

OR.... you just put them in a jar with a little Thymol and they die that way. Putting the lid back on the jar keeps the Thymol in and muffles the coughing and gagging sounds as they are gassed to death.

The best thing is if someone comes in with anything like this or something that might be on an endangered list, demand they produce the CITES certificate. This is international proof that whatever it is was harvested in an ecologically safe manner.