Insect lovers learning how to perform butterfly transplants on YouTube

Some New Zealand insect lovers are so devoted, they're conducting butterfly wing transplants.

That involves removing a damaged wing and fitting a new one to give the butterfly a few extra weeks of life - but experts say their efforts may be in vain.

All that's needed to perform the transplant is a pair of tweezers, talcum powder and superglue. Videos on YouTube have inspired people all over the world to turn to butterfly surgery.

The butterfly is held in place with a hanger, its damaged wing is cut off, and a dead butterfly's wing is used as a replacement.

The butterfly doesn't feel any pain, and cutting a wing is said to be like cutting a human fingernail.

But experts say mistakes can lead to mating problems.

"Some people might be taking wings from a male and putting them on a female," said Dr Jenny Jandt, a social insect specialist at Otago University.

"If that individual hasn't mated yet, if that individual still wants to lay eggs and reproduce it may have trouble finding a mate."

Another concern is whether helping butterflies with deformities is good for the species - but it's hard to know if a deformity is genetic or environmental.

"Often deformities take place because the insect just hasn't had the right humidity when it emerged from the chrysalis," said Paul Barrett, a keeper at Butterfly Creek.

Some insect experts say there are more effective ways people can help.

"Planting butterfly-friendly flowers in your yard that are free from herbicides," Dr Jandt suggested as one option. 

Butterflies generally live between three and five weeks, but if they have a damaged wing that means they can't fly or find food - and they soon die.

That's why people have been learning the skills to perform the transplants on YouTube.

Scientists say it's not known what happens after the butterflies are released, but tagging would help work out just how successful butterfly surgery can be.