Fact Check-Image does not show an endangered butterfly species, but artist’s rendering

An image of an insect with shimmering, translucent wings does not show an “endangered starry butterfly,” contrary to claims on social media. Instead, it shows crystal artist Sara Shakeel’s digital rendering of a black-veined white butterfly.

Posts describing the butterfly in the image as an endangered species called the “starry butterfly” can be found here , here and here .

As indicated by the watermark next to the butterfly’s wing, the image is a 2019 piece by Pakistani artist Sara Shakeel, who posted it to her Instagram account here with the caption “Nothing Lasts Forever.” At the time of this publication, Shakeel had 1 million Instagram followers.

According to a 2019 interview with Elle Décor Italia (here), Shakeel was studying to become a dentist, but failed her last exam 16 times over the course of two years. Looking for a creative outlet and a way to cope with her disappointment, she began making digital collages imposing crystal and glitter textures onto real photographs.

Shakeel has created crystal pieces of the late Diana, Princess of Wales (here), McDonald’s French fries (here), musician Lizzo (here), the tongue of a cat (here), healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 (here), a dandelion (here), the late actress Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) (here), and many more.

Shakeel also has a popular project in which she imposes glittery crystal patterns onto stretch marks and scars in the name of “heal(ing) through art” (here).

Shakeel did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment via Twitter and Facebook.

The original image of the butterfly used in Shakeel’s collage can be found on the nature blog “Wild About Spain” in a 2012 post about a trip to part of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountain range near the Andalusian city of Granada (here). The caption accompanying the image identifies the insect as the “fabulous Black-veined White” butterfly.

The European Environment Agency has assessed the threat of the species’ extinction on the continent as of “least concern” (here).

Scientifically classified as Aporia crataegi, the species has not been present in the British Isles since 1925, but it is still found in Spain and North Africa, as well across Europe and temperate Asia (here).

In the 1940s, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill spent years trying, to no avail, to reintroduce the black-veined white species to his country by having hundreds released into his garden in Kent (here).

As reported here by the Guardian, experts believe the species could thrive in the British Isles once again with average temperatures rising due to climate change.

The “starry butterfly” could not be found either in the Natural History Museum in London’s searchable butterfly species database (here) or on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of endangered butterfly species (here).


Mislabeled. The image in question does not show an endangered butterfly species but an artist’s rendering.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here .