What to do if you disturb a butterfly’s winter sleep

A butterfly in January? We need something to encourage us. In the month of New Year’s Resolutions, here’s a thought in the struggle for survival of the natural world.

That adorable butterfly, the little tortoise, can really turn into mid-winter, perturbed from its hibernation in a fold of extra room curtains, or tucked away in the back of a picture or dresser.

It will choose its location carefully, relying on the camouflage of its dark underwings in early autumn. But it can also calculate without false indications of central heating. What do you do when it’s fluttering on the lights or windows, eager to get outside to join in the spring, the house temperature has arrived?

It depends how much you care. Simply letting the butterfly out in the cold will cause it to collapse and soon be snatched away by a blackbird. But recovering its winter sleep can also take a lot of effort.

in your blog Butterfly Conservation Ireland website, lepidopterist Jesmond Harding offers ways to proceed. One is to tie the butterfly to a tissue-lined tube and keep it in the fridge until March or April, or, once it cools off from the cold immersion, leave it somewhere safe to resume its sleep.

If the tortoise has been exhausted from a circuit flying a lot of the room, it may also need a revitalized snack from a honey-soaked pad of cotton wool.

Harding is used to the little turtles overwintering and feeling “a burst of joy to see the butterfly soaring in the sun in the spring.” It is part of their 25 years of study that differentiates €35 quality paperbacks on sale from their home in Co Kildare.