Most Monarch butterflies fly south for the winter, but this may be the only one that has to go through airport security.
Butterfly expert Maraleen "Butterfly Lady" Maros-Jones of Shokan, NY, discovered the butterfly mid-metamorphosis near her home in late September, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
By that point, most other Monarchs had already begun their migration southward. When this one fully emerged on Oct. 1, it was too cold for the large, healthy female to survive the trek alone.
“I knew if I just let her go, she'd die,” said Maros-Jones.
Southwest Airlines agreed to allow Maros-Jones to transport the butterfly on a flight to Texas free of charge, according to the Texas Butterfly Ranch. Maros-Jones plans to arrive in San Antonio on Monday afternoon and release the butterfly at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. There, it can join other butterflies mid-journey.
The Butterfly Lady was also able to obtain an expedited permit from the USDA to allow her to transport the Monarch as soon as possible. She will be toting the butterfly as a carry-on, packed inside multiple layers of protection and cooling agents to keep the insect calm.
"It's not a frivolous endeavor," Manos-Jones told the AP, adding that the butterfly "is a symbol of hope."
Manos-Jones may have taken this lucky arthropod under her wing, but the species as a whole may still be in trouble. In 2010, the number of butterflies wintering in Mexico dropped by 75 percent, which scientists believe was largely due to changing weather patterns.
Though the Monarch numbers partially recovered in 2011, the population dropped again in 2012, the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico reported, citing drought and deforestation as likely causes.