Every year around this time, thousands of Monarch butterflies begin to emerge from their cocoons and gather en masse in South Texas, storing up energy for their seasonal migration into central Mexico. But sadly, some late-bloomers never make it there in time to beat the winter chill.
In late September, butterfly enthusiast Maraleen Manos-Jones discovered a Monarch caterpillar forming a cocoon in her backyard in New York state. Knowing full well that the fragile insect, once emerged, would not survive the trip south in the dropping Fall temperatures, she brought the cocoon inside.
Several weeks later, when the butterfly's transformation was complete, a remarkable idea was hatched as well -- one that would give that insect a fighting chance at life.
Instead of releasing the insect to fly the treacherous journey to join its kind in Texas, Maraleen decided to procure it a ride. So she contacted Southwest Airlines, and asked for their help.
”The whole idea came to me slowly and organically,” said Maraleen on the blog of the Texas Butterfly Ranch. “There were many phone calls.”
It may seem like a lot of effort given to save a single Monarch butterfly, but in the end insect empathy won out; Southwest Airlines was gracious enough to offer Maraleen and the late-blooming butterfly a free trip to Texas!
In fact, Southwest seems quite pleased to accommodate the little winged passenger along in its 1950-mile trek, dubbing the journey the 'butterflight'. And, with any luck, Maraleen and the butterfly she helped save will arrive to the San Antonio Botanical Garden on Monday in time to release the late-bloomer to join all the other butterflies on their journey south.
It is a grand gesture, to be sure, ushering that lonely insect back on its way -- but If the gentle flap of a single butterfly's wings can shape the weather, then perhaps the kindness shown towards saving one butterfly's life could change the course of history for the better.