Southwest Airlines Flies Late Blooming Monarch Butterfly To Texas

A late-blooming Monarch Butterfly is getting the royal treatment from Southwest Airlines. The stranded butterfly emerged from her cocoon too late to join the swarm for the fall migration to Mexico. In order help her complete the journey, the airline will be flying the Monarch from Albany, New York To San Antonio, Texas. It is hoped the lonely arthropod will eventually rejoin the millions of other Monarchs who have already arrived at their winter quarters.

Monarchs are the only butterflies known to make two migrations a year; flying north from Mexico every spring and then travelling south again every fall. While many other species spend the winter bundled in a thick cocoon as protection against the cold weather, Monarchs are unable to survive the harsh northern climate.

Unfortunately, one butterfly was slow to exit from her cocoon, and by the time she finally spread her wings, her many friends had left her far behind. Monarchs avoid predators by gathering in immense swarms, and without the protection of million of other Monarchs, the solitary butterfly would never have survived the long migration.

Thankfully, Maraleen Manos-Jones was on hand to save the day. The Shokan, New York resident is known to her friends and neighbors as The Butterfly Lady; due to the extensive gardens on her property dedicated to raising butterflies. Manos-Jones has spent most of her adult life studying butterflies and is considered an expert in the field.

Although late emerging butterflies are generally weak and under-developed, Ms. Manos-Jones was pleasantly surprised when this one particular specimen emerged from her cocoon at the end of September, full-sized, vibrant and healthy.

“I knew if I just let her go, she’d die. “But she’s so fabulous she deserves to be in Mexico with all of her millions of brothers and sisters. She was such a magnificent specimen, and my heart just responded to her.”

The Butterfly Lady was prepared to do what ever it would take to save the Monarch and luck was with her when she chose Southwest Airlines for her first telephone call. The airline agreed to fly her and the butterfly to San Antonio, Texas as soon as she was ready.

Southwest Spokeswoman Brooks Thomas commented on the airlines dedication to conservation:

“Southwest’s conservation efforts run deep, and after thoughtful consideration, we decided to assist the healthy butterfly down to San Antonio, knowing that it wouldn’t make the migration otherwise.”

In order to survive the plane flight, the Monarch will undergo some rather remarkable preparations. The butterfly will be placed in a glassine envelope, along with a damp piece of cotton to keep her moist. The special envelope will be placed in a Tupperware container and that container will go inside a second box, packed with ice to keep the butterfly cool and calm during the flight. The entire assembly will go into a special bag, lined with layers of newspapers and towels.

Ms. Manos-Jones will hand carry the Monarch onto the plane and accompany her for the entire journey to San Antonio. After arriving in Texas, the butterfly will be released in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. There she will be able to recover and feast on the nectar from the abundant flowers. Once she has fully recuperated, it is hoped the lonely Monarch will complete the last leg of the migration and rejoin the swarms in Mexico.

Our noble Butterfly Lady explained why she made the effort to save one single butterfly, out of the millions of Monarchs who successfully managed the migration:

“This is just not the release of this butterfly, but of everything she symbolizes,” said Manos-Jones. “She is a symbol of hope.”