Butterflies are day-flying insects with knobby antennae, four brightly colored and patterned wings and a long proboscis. The insects are pollinators, moving from flower to flower to drink the flower's nectar and transferring pollen to each in the process. The butterfly is the adult stage of caterpillars. The larva build a chrysalis and metamorphose to their final stage of life. Sometimes, when the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its wings remain crinkled.
When butterflies first emerge from their chrysalis, their wings are wet and wrinkled. This occurs due to the tight space of the chrysalis when the caterpillar is metamorphosing. After hatching, the butterfly hangs upside down, flapping its wings to straighten and dry them. The pumping action helps blood flow through the wings, too. It takes about a day for the wings to fully harden, though the butterflies may be flying within an hour or two.
Causes of Wrinkling
Any number of things can lead to deformed wings or prevent the wings from opening up properly. A butterfly's wings are very soft when it first emerges from the chrysalis. If the butterfly falls to the ground, it runs the risk of damaging its wings, causing them to become malformed. If a butterfly chrysalis that's being stored for release at a wedding or butterfly house and hatches early, it may not have enough room to fully expand its wings in the storage container. Additionally, the butterfly may have a defect, such as poor blood circulation to the wings, preventing their opening.
When the butterfly first emerges you can help it by providing a safe area with plenty of room to move around. Some like to create butterfly houses with netting for the butterflies to cling to when they land. Should a butterfly fall to the ground and have trouble turning over, hover a piece of paper towel over its legs. The butterfly should cling to the paper towel and pull itself upright. Once the wing are completely dry, they are set and nothing can be done to straighten them. You can, however, provide the butterfly with a home and food for the rest of its life.
When you have a butterfly with crinkled wings, it's best to take it in and provide a home for it. A large clear container or cage with mesh screen will keep the butterfly out of trouble. Place plenty of leaves, flowers and twigs in the cage for the butterfly to cling to and crawl over. Feed the butterfly with a solution of 2 parts honey and 8 parts water. Soak a sponge in the solution and place it in the cage. The butterfly should find it and start drinking the fluid.