On a wing and a prayer

Woman takes monarch butterfly under her wing for release in San Antonio

Woman takes monarch butterfly under wing for release in San Antonio

Monarch butterfly
Every year, monarch butterflies like this one that hitched a ride to Texas, migrate thousands of miles from the U.S. and Canada to hibernation grounds in Mexico. Jester Park Nature Center/Facebook

An Iowa woman went to great heights to heed the call of a nature center seeking help to relocate a single monarch butterfly to Texas.

Patty Loving, who’s originally from Texas but now lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, had already booked a Southwest Airlines flight to Texas when she learned about the butterfly’s predicament. The Jester Park Nature Center in the Des Moines suburb of Granger posted November 2 on Facebook that a newly emerged monarch butterfly “desperately needs to hitch a ride to Texas ASAP.”

A group of seventh-graders discovered the monarch while assisting with a prairie-seed harvest at the nature center.

“We need to do something to help [monarchs],” Patrice Petersen-Keys, an official with the nature center, told Des Moines TV station KCCI. “And this is kind of one of those little feel-good things to say, ‘Hey, if this little monarch butterfly can make it to Mexico, we can all rally behind it and feel good about that.’”

Loving, who used to raise monarch butterflies in Texas, answered the nature center’s plea and volunteered — with permission from Dallas-based Southwest Airlines — to escort the wayward butterfly on her 900-mile flight from Des Moines to Austin. It turns out Jen Yáñez-Alaniz, a friend of Loving, runs CIELO Gardens in San Antonio, and that’s where the monarch eventually was released.

“I’m so happy to be a part of this special adventure,” Loving wrote on Facebook.

Loving told the Des Moines Register that after she opened an envelope that contained the butterfly over some flowers, it wiggled and initially gripped her finger but finally let go. That happened November 5, a day after Loving’s flight with the butterfly. In transit, the envelope had been kept in a sealed container inside a cooler.

“The happiest of all endings ever!!! … The emotions I am feeling are out of this world!” Loving wrote on Facebook after the butterfly fluttered away.

If Loving hadn’t transported the butterfly to Texas, it probably wouldn’t have survived the harsh winter in Iowa. Much of North America’s monarch population migrates to Mexico every year, stopping in Texas along the way, to escape the cold weather in northern climates. Many of the monarchs follow the I-35 corridor on their yearly migration journeys.

“In the spring, many will migrate back to the U.S., where they will reproduce, pollinate, and also be a food source, making our world a healthier place,” Loving explained on Facebook.