Buckeye butterfly

How do you bury a butterfly?

By isak, June 21, 2020

As I stepped out on the back stoop last night, something fell to the ground just in front of me landing with a bit of a thud. It was so odd to step out and be almost hit by something falling out of the sky. I looked up and saw nothing.

At first glance at this thing that fell from the sky, I thought it was a small bird. A baby maybe. But as I leaned over to look more closely, I realized it was a pretty good sized butterfly. At about the same time, one of my cats thought that this mystery required a bit of her attention, too. So I immediately stepped in and picked up the butterfly.

A buckeye butterfly maybe? A tad ragged, too.

I walked towards the shed not knowing what to do with this little creature. Was it okay? Why did it fall from the sky? Did it get dropped by a bird? I set it on top of a dog house, but the breeze was too much for the butterfly. It could not maintain it’s balance. That’s when I considered it was maybe dying.

Not knowing what was going on, I placed the butterfly on a piece of cardboard inside the shed. As expected, it died overnight.

So what do I do with it now? How do you bury a butterfly? Or do you bury a butterfly? I just don’t know.

NOTE: From a commenter, we have learned that this is not a butterfly, but a Polyphemus Moth. On googling it, we have learned that this moth is “…one of our largest and most beautiful silk moths. It is named after Polyphemus, the giant cyclops from Greek mythology who had a single large, round, eye in the middle of his forehead (Himmelman 2002). The name is because of the large eyespots in the middle of the hind wings.” On the rather sad side: “The adult moths live for about 7 to 15 days usually. They are unable to eat as adults, like most Saturniidae, and live their short lives just long enough to pair, lay eggs, and die.” Thanks to BS for the identification.


  1. Jenni says:

    I had a luna moth visit me last night. It seemed like it was injured. I live in a apartment complex so there are stray cats. I am thinking one of them got them. Today I. Was moving things into my new place and there it was ripped in half. I had a little box for eye lashes but I put some tissues I the box and I’m leaving on the ac right now. Tonight when it’s dark, I will burry it. I never send one before and there so beautiful. I’m still in awe at why it came to me during its last moments. Blessed be. Love to all. Did I mention I cried?

  2. BS says:

    I don’t mean to be rude… but that isn’t a butterfly… it’s a beautiful moth! A Polyphemus Moth to be exact. There is a meaning behind any creature coming to you in its dying moments. What? Only you may have the answer to that & I hope you found that understanding…

    • isak says:

      Ahhhh… I think you are correct. Thanks for the heads up. Why it came to me? Still no idea. Perhaps it’s just comforting to not pass alone. Or maybe even just a coincidence. :/

  3. junie says:

    a monarch butterfly literally died in my hands today, so I searched what to do. I can’t exactly bury it with a gravestone (i was going to put a paintbrush over the grave, so I could signify a colorful beacon of life) because I’m moving soon. So this helped, I think I’m going to put some poetry with it.

  4. Janie says:

    I’m having the same predicament with a black swallowtail that we found in our driveway. We thought it was dead, but, to our surprise, it was still alive. We noticed that it was missing some of its legs on the right side. Of course, it couldn’t fly. My spouse picked it up and we placed it under some rocks in our fountain to keep it safe from predators. I was giving it Gatorade because I’ve heard that it’s good for them. This occurred on Sunday and my beautiful, little, friend passed away today. My fountain has the Virgin Mary, so, I think it would be appropriate to bury it under the fountain where she spent her last days.

    • isak says:

      It sounds like your little friend gave it the best they could. I think being buried under the fountain sounds nice.

  5. Jessa Jay says:

    I guess I’m on the same boat as you guys but mine is a white butterfly. My mom wanted to preserve and frame it because it’s still in good condition but I wish to let the circle of life do it and give it a proper burial. I was really sure it was alive last night in my mom’s garden and then this morning, I found it on the top of the stairs dead. I was thinking of wrapping it on a tissue paper then burying it into an empty pot in my mom’s soil or placing it inside a small cardboard box and then burying it inside the empty potted soil plant. Whoever comes across this article and this comment, I hope you find the right way to bury them. This is my first encounter on such things.

    • isak says:

      So sorry to hear about your white butterfly. Sounds like he/she was beautiful.

      I think whatever you do will be okay because, no matter what, they return to the earth.

      I have never understood hanging the heads of animals hunters have killed on their walls. We don’t put our relatives and friends there when they pass.

  6. Shakila Bradbury says:

    Hi Isak,

    I came across your article dated June 2020 as I am now searching ‘how to bury a moth/butterfly.’ There isn’t much literature on this sadly.

    I’m interested to know what happened, what you did?

    I raised 3 moths from caterpillars, so I need to give them a burial 🙁

    I have chosen to bury them in the potted plant that I released them onto when they emerged. It’s ivy (Hedera helix) on a wire to make a circle shape – topiary!

    The moths were small white ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) beautiful, white with black spots and orange abdomen with black spots. They had a furry white collar 🙂


    • isak says:

      Seriously? I thought I was alone on this endeavor.

      I didn’t know what to do, so I put the butterfly on a piece of cardboard in my shed while I tried to decide. Overnight, it died. However, on a second visit the next morning, the butterfly was gone. Did it blow under something and I could not find it, or did something take it? I never found it.

      So, sadly, I have no good ending to my story to share with you.

      I sometimes have white moths with black spots but white underbellies as I recall. They are pretty large — about 1-1.5 inches from head to tail. Not sure if they are the same as yours.

      So sorry for your losses.

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