Mission of love: Shokan woman saves an out of season Monarch butterfly

A monarch greets Maraleen Manos-Jones on the first day of spring, 1977, in the mountains of Mexico, where 50 million monarchs gather to mate each year.

When a monarch butterfly hatched on October 20 at the home of Shokan resident and “Butterfly Lady” Maraleen Manos-Jones, she knew it wouldn’t survive the trip to its wintering grounds in Mexico so late in the year. Determined to save the late bloomer, she contacted Southwest Airlines, which ended up flying Manos-Jones and the monarch to San Antonio, Texas, for free, so the handsome black-and-orange insect could join its cohorts on their way South.

Our local Butterfly Lady hopes the publicity surrounding the trip — reported through many outlets, including NPR, Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post — will inspire people to “take care of our planet so all creatures can live. This butterfly’s survival is a symbol of hope and renewal. No matter how many gardens of our lives or our planet are destroyed, we can rebuild, replant, and renew.”


But she says she made the trip mostly because “the butterfly inspired me to do this on her behalf.”

Manos-Jones worked for more than a decade at the seasonal butterfly conservatory of the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, and she wrote the book, The Spirit of Butterflies (Harry N. Abrams, 2000). She’s also been raising and releasing butterflies for 40 years, so when she saw the fat, juicy, striped monarch caterpillar hanging in her garden on September 21, preparing to form a chrysalis, she knew the creature was way behind schedule. The adult monarchs had already begun migrating, and this individual had a long way to go before take-off.

With the weather turning cold, she brought the chrysalis indoors on October 1. Most monarchs emerge after 10 days to two weeks in the chrysalis. This one took a month, emerging on October 20. “Usually if they stay in the chrysalis too long, the ends of the wings come out curled,’ says Manos-Jones. “They can’t fly well. This one was perfect and among the largest monarchs I’ve seen. She was spectacular.”

It’s easy to tell male and female monarchs apart, says Manos-Jones. The male has a black dot on each of its lower hind wings. When courting, the male rubs the dot, a pheromone packet that releases an intoxicating scent, said to smell like a mix of ripe pineapple and dark chocolate. Females do not have the black dot.

Manos-Jones knew the monarch could not make its migration with temperatures under 55 degrees and without plants still flowering enroute to provide nourishment for the trip.

There is one comment

  1. Debra

    Wow! That must have been a really big carbon footprint left by that plane – all to fly a butterfly to Mexico?! How is that saving the planet?

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