Introduction: Monarch Butterfly Walkalong Glider

Picture of Monarch Butterfly Walkalong Glider
A Monarch Butterfly which has died is trimmed for flight and flown as a walkalong glider. The butterfly was found with its wings in the folded position. The butterfly is put in a humid chamber to losen up the muscles. Once unfolded, the butterfly wings are dried in a mold and fingernail polish is applied to the fuselage to add weight and strengthen the wings. The butterfly is then flown as a walkalong glider. It is recommended that first time builder/pilots learn how to fly a walkalong glider by following the instructable titled "Tumblewing Walkalong Glider Made from Phonebook Paper"

The result is a dried Monarch Butterfly which can be flown as a walkalong glider:

Here is the latest video on mounting the butterfly:

Step 1: Humidifying the Butterfly

Picture of Humidifying the Butterfly
The butterfly is placed in a plastic container with a small amount of water. This will limber up the muscles so the wings can be unfolded.

Step 2: Molding the Wings

Picture of Molding the Wings
The butterfly's wings are spread and mounted on a flat piece of 3/4" polystyrene insulation. A wire is fixed under the midsection of the wings to shape the trailing edge as an up elevator surface. The wings are held on the flat surface by strips of paper and pins or thumb tacks:

Step 3: Strengthening the Wings and Adding Ballast

Picture of Strengthening the Wings and Adding Ballast
Fingernail polish is applied to the fuselage (body) mainly forward both to strengthen where the wings meet the fuselage and to add forward weight which moves the center of gravity forward.

Once the wings have dried in the mold (at lease one day, outside humidity chamber), additional fingernail polish is added to the top of the fuselage to further strengthen the wing roots.

Step 4: Reshaping the Wings

After the first molding of the butterflies wings, the elevator did not have enough upward shape and the butterfly flew too fast and thus its maneuverability suffered. Here is a video of a flight with not enough up elevator:

To get the final trim, the elevator trailing edge was shaped to trim for a more nose up attitude. The process was begun by rehydrating the Monarch Butterfly and molding components (paper strips) by placing them in an airtight container with a small amount of water:

After at least a day in the container, the butterfly is ready to be reshaped. First, the inboard sections of the wings are shaped over the wire to provide more up elevator:

Next the outboard (wing tips) are shaped flush with the foam board:

And the assembly is set out to dry. This reshaping (more up elevator) resulted in a slower trimmed airspeed and more maneuverability.


JellyHaven (author)2015-07-03

Wouldent it be more manageable to draw butterfly wings on paper and color it?Poor butterflies :(

I'd recommend this sliced foam for lightness:

people in Asia have done a nice job with thin foam butterfly models:

delonzo (author)2014-01-05


delonzo (author)2013-06-25

How can you air surf butterflies

awesomecreations (author)2013-04-10

Very nice job!
I will probably use very similar steps for preparing insect wings for flying, but for use on an ornithopter. I don't know quite why, but once I found a dead butterfly with wings in the open position and I decided to give it a little launch. It flew amazingly well considering it was a dead insect and the wings appear to be good for gliding, but butterflies flap their wings rather slowly when compared to other flying creatures of similar size.
Great job, it works well.

lpayne2 (author)2011-11-06

Without a doubt the most amazing thing I've seen in a LONG time...I'm speechless.
I would love one of these but they look too difficult to make. A paper one colored to look like a butterfly would be great. I will be thinking about this all awe.

Leosmama (author)2010-07-05

How beautiful, the butterfly got a second chance at flying - like a kind of reincarnation :) Love it!!!

toxicwolf (author)2010-06-13

it disturbing but i love the idea it be even more disturbing if it was a bat but that would be cooler

Kite builder (author)2009-04-18

I have two or three small white butterfly's, that i have now since two or three years. can i built a Walkalong Glider from one of them (i want not use the rarer butterflys i my collection because i think they can be destroyed by many flights) Do you protect the scales on the butterfly´s wings (the coating, what make the monarch orange and the small white butterfly white)? and can i use any sheet of plastic or cardboard to hold up the glider?

I tend toward larger butterflies and moths, but I don't see why smaller ones wouldn't work as well. The butterflies do take a beating, especially when they land behind furniture and it is hard to get a grasp of them. I'd recomment the latest set of instructions.

I don't protect the wings, but it would be interesting to see how a coating would affect the flight, both the weight and the shape of the wings.

You can use ahy sheet of material. I like lighter material such as foam core poster board.

If i touch my butterflys too firmly at the wings, they loose their wing-painting and colors. i want to protect them to make experiments without they loose their wing-painting. and i have a compleete set of Butterfly-wings. I rescued the Butterfly from a train station and brought it into our garden. But next day, there were only its wings. Can i attach them to a short piece of straw and make a glider from it? (i can make a good glider from a complete straw and two rings of paperstrips)

You may be able to glue the wings together with fingernail polish. Glue the forward wings first, holding them flat against a board. When they are dry, place a pencil parallel to the wings and glue the aft wings to the fore wings, resting the aft wings on the pencil. when the glue has dried, hold the aft wings over the pencil with pieces of paper to add up elevator.

I would recommend trying to fly the tumblewing to get used to flying walkalong gliders and their dependence on smooth air for successful flights.

jonnyboy323 (author)2009-04-17

Awesome Instructable!!!! Well believe it or not i got a hold of a dead butterfly.1 question before i start though...are you supposed to cut off the body and legs? I don't see any... Jon

Wow. I do not remove any parts of the butterfly. Any missing parts probably fell off during crashes. The legs, strengthened by fingernail polish, make a nice and relatively safe handle for launching. The latest instructions can be found here, for a painted lady butterfly.

screwgravity (author)2009-01-20

This is so....thought-provoking, yes that's the word. definitely 5 stars.

Shagglepuff (author)2008-12-22

The fact that it's a dead butterfly is pretty creepy, but it still looks fun. But can you make a walkalong glider(not a tumblewing) that isn't dead?

T3h_Muffinator (author)2008-01-09

That's AWESOME! Great job!

whiteoakart (author)2008-01-09

That's really impressive.

austin (author)2008-01-07

in the video did you run into the door frame? also cool project its pretty interesting

walkalongaviation (author)austin2008-01-08

I have made a new video where the wings have been remolded and the up elevator increased which makes the trimmed airspeed much slower. Slower airspeed (turned out there was ample room to slow down before the stall speed was reached) means increased maneuverability. In the new video (on the intro page) the pilot has much better control over the butterfly and there is no high speed crashes into door jams like the first video:
first video (airspeed trimmed to fast)

technick29 (author)2008-01-07

Interesting, great use of science and creativity. Let's call it... scitivity! or screativity? Haha, something like that.

Kiteman (author)technick292008-01-08

Just so long as you don't call it creation science...

Nice 'ible, BTW.

CarpetGnome (author)2008-01-07

Reminds me of when I was young... My friends and I would catch junebugs and tie strings to their legs, living kites. (I don't do that anymore.... not since the "great invasion")

Erik Lindemann (author)2008-01-07

Very cool, and kinda morbid at the same time, now that I've realized you were using a real dead butterfly.

Tool Using Animal (author)2008-01-07

I LOL'ed. That's freak'n sweet.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-01-07

NICE JOB! That's amazing, it looks awesome too. (added to favorites)

CameronSS (author)2008-01-07


ewilhelm (author)2008-01-07


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