2 Monarch Butterflies Escape Hurricane Sandy Thanks to Thoughtful Family

This post was originally published on Naturally Educated, and is reprinted with permission.

Have you ever been late?† Not extremely late, but five minutes here, ten there?† Embarrassingly, I am consistently a little bit late.† I want to be on time, but find myself leaving the house at the last possible second every time.† Whether I have hours to prepare before departure or five minutes, I am running out the door, frazzled and frantic, with no time to spare.† Itís no fun being late, which is why I had lots of empathy for the Monarchs who emerged in our yard in the last days of October and the first ones of November.† They arrived to cold temperatures and an impending hurricane.† The following is the story of how my family helped these late arrivals get to where they needed to be on time!

We spent all summer watching the Monarch caterpillars in our yard.† We have been fascinated by these beautiful caterpillars that turn into beautiful butterflies.† Some of these brightly colored creatures travel from our yard in Pennsylvania all the way to their wintering grounds in Mexico.† We searched for chrysalises so we could see the caterpillars emerge as butterflies, but didnít find any until my son looked out our front window and discovered this Monarch in late October.

We took a closer look and saw its chrysalis and a second chrysalis of a butterfly that had not yet emerged.

newly emerged butterfly with its used chrysalis to the right

Monarch caterpillar chrysalis with butterfly almost ready to emerge

The already emerged butterfly that my son first spotted took off later that day, but we feared the one who was still waiting to emerge would not survive Hurricane Sandy, which was due in a few days.† We brought it in before the storm and it emerged, safe from the rain and wind.

The Monarch from the chrysalis we brought in before the hurricane, newly emerged on a plant in our house.

The temperature then dropped drastically.† Monarchs need temperatures of at least sixty degrees Fahrenheit to take off.† We put it back outside, but it was unable to fly.

We brought him (we discovered he was male by the markings on his wings) back inside and started to brainstorm ways to get this guy to Mexico.† We fantasized about driving him south.† According to the weather forecast, our next sixty degree day was two weeks away.† We looked at weather maps and discovered it would be at least a ten hour drive for us to get somewhere with sixty degree temperatures.† My husband began feeding him and we kept him in a mesh container that the kids had on hand for observing butterflies.† While trying to decide what to do, my husband went outside and found yet another newly emerged Monarch in our yard!

Monarch Butterfly newly emerged on November 1st

We talked to a local butterfly expert who said he would probably let them go and let nature take its course, but as we talked, he remembered that people ship butterflies in envelopes (think butterfly releases at weddings) and said we could try if we knew anyone who lived in the south.

I thought of my cousin in Texas.† Monarchs pass through Texas on their way to Mexico.† Perfect!† I contacted my cousin and she was very willing to help these guys out.† My husband diligently researched how Monarchs are shipped by companies for releases and learned that they are put in glassine envelopes, cooled into a dormant state and kept cold with an ice pack during shipping.† We decided to ship them overnight to Texas the following Monday to ensure there would be no delay on the weekend.† (A USDA permit is required to ship butterflies across state lines)

My husband continued to feed them sugar water for the few days they remained with us.† He used a toothpick to roll out their proboscis and encourage them to drink.† One preferred to drink from a spoon and the other preferred a sponge.

Monarch drinking sugar water from a spoon


The butterflies were fed once a day and it was an amazing opportunity for us all to examine parts of a butterfly and learn how they eat.

Watching a butterfly feeding up close

Observing the butterflies

We were sad to say goodbye, but were very excited they would have an opportunity to get to Mexico despite their late start.† My husband carefully packaged them in envelopes and placed them in a cooler with an ice pack in a separate compartment.

Butterfly in glassine envelope

Cooler used to ship butterflies, ice pack in bottom compartment

Butterflies in cooler in flat rate shipping box

We looked at our map and found PA, Texas and Mexico and talked about how far the Monarchs would be traveling.† We discussed how they would make this journey on their own if they hadnít emerged so late in the season.

Tracing the path of the Monarchs on a map

The kids went to the post office with Daddy to see the butterflies off.

Mailing the Monarchs to Texas

The Monarchs left our local post office at 2:30 pm on a chilly November day and arrived in Allen, Texas about 24 hours later.† I received this image from my cousin over social media entitled, ďMade it!Ē

The Monarchs arrived safely in Allen Texas!

We were thrilled that the butterflies made it safely and were treated to a video of their release into the warm Texas skies by my cousin and her beautiful daughters.† This was a great learning opportunity for the whole family.† Now if only there were some overnight shipping equivalent that could get me and the kids to school on time!


Related Stories:

Lifesaving Project for Endangered Monarch Butterflies

Climate Change Hurts Butterflies, Too

72% of UK Butterfly Species in Decline



Virginia A.

Sure you did the right thing. Congratulations.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Lindsay, for Sharing this!

David M.

Seriously Ren K?They DID!! do the right thing!They saved 2 beautiful butterflies who might have just drowned in hurricane Sandy.Food chain?Really???I'm sure the birds and lizards will do just fine without 2 butterflies.And even if a bird or lizard did die,then THAT'S THE WAY NATURE INTENDED IT!In this case nature(and 1 wonderful family)wanted the butterflies saved!!!!You are right about one thing.Every species does have a suvival and death rate.And in this case 2 beautiful butterflies got an extension!GOOD FOR THEM!!!

Carrie Anne Brown

great article, thanks for sharing :)

Ren Kelly
Moone Kelly5 years ago

isn't that beautiful... well at least you thought you were doing the right thing, problem is the right thing is not what we want to here. What you really did here was interrupted a food chain and/or fight for survival. We all complain when wildlife come closer inland and start attacking people yet none of us understand we are the people who are creating this. Every species has a survival and death rate, that which dies keeps another species alive, and so forth and so forth. If you take a food source out of the food chain (for whatever reason) you are limiting the food source for other species to survive. Yes you saved the the lives of two beautiful Monarch butterflies, however, had you left them to be a food source (as nature intended) they would have contributed to keep another species alive, and yes it was only 2 and you have probably only done it once but if everybody who loves this beautiful story tried this they would be putting a massive dent in the food chain..... what feeds on Monarchs - hummingbirds, ladybirds, lizards...


Also love the photos and it feel so nice to know there are people like you still!!!!!!!!


Oh Im sooo amazed with your wonderful story, this is the first time in my life that I read something like this that someone takes so much care for those little and fragil creatures, Im soo glad and thankful for what a wonderful job you did for them, it is really amazing and also you thougt me a lot about them and what they eat and how they can be packed and ship that way, wow is really awesome, thanks so much, and what a good family youre, Bless you all for being such special people and teach your kids to take care of animals!!!!!!!!!!!

Magdika Cecilia Perez

how wonderful

Andrew C.
Andrew C5 years ago

Wow, what a great story! Good job!

Kathy K.
Kathy K5 years ago

What a fabulous story! Thank you for caring about these little beings.