the north face stratos Ithaca hair stylist rescues monarch butterflies
Rose Teeter keeps caterpillars inside her hair salon. She allows them to turn into chrysalises and later into monarch butterflies that she tags and releases.
Matt Steecker / Staff video
Rose Cochran Teeter holds onto a newly hatched butterfly.(Photo: Matt Steecker / Staff photo)Buy PhotoTwelve years ago, hair stylist Rose Cochran Teeter was cutting her cousin Teresa Sharp’s hair when the stylistgasped and Sharp touched her hair, thinking her cousin made a mistake.
The hairdresser was actually watching a butterfly hatch out of a chrysalis she kept in a tank.
“I got hooked then,” said Ithacan Cochran Teeter, who has been rescuing monarch butterflies since.
Cochran Teeter stores caterpillars and butterflies inside four tanks. She’s received more than 100 caterpillars from Sandy Simkin, of Ithaca, and over 75 from her brother Rob Cochranand his wife, Anne.
Once they mature, the hair stylist releaseseach butterfly in hopes that they are ableto migrate to El Rosario, Mexico. She will be releasing over 300 butterflies this year.
“My customers know me as the butterfly lady,” Cochran Teeter said. “I am keeping the butterflies in captivity. It sounds mean, but no, they are all dying.”
The monarch butterfly population has declined by hundreds of millions over decades.
Buy PhotoA monarch butterfly hatches out of its chrysalis. (Photo: Matt Steecker / Staff photo)
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, a national,
nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places, the use of Roundup and other herbicides that contain glyphosate has wiped out much of the milkweed monarch caterpillars eat as food.
After noticing that Taughannock Falls State Park had been cutting milkweed, the source of food for monarch caterpillars, Cochran Teeter called the park. She said she has since received a call saying the park did not cut milkweed down last year.
“Rose is a passionate rescuer of monarch butterflies, doing all that she can to help a population that is struggling because of pesticides,” said Kathleen Mulligan, one of Cochran Teeter’s clients.
Buy PhotoRose Cochran Teeter feeds a baby butterfly using a syringe and sugar water. (Photo: Matt Steecker / Staff photo)
The monarchs usually put on a show for the clients inside the hair salon.
“I was able to watch one come out of its chrysalis my first time at 57 and release three of them while color was processing on my head,” Mulligan said.”What makes it amazing is the sheer number of them she has.”
The hair stylist devotes a significant amount of time to cleaning each tank because of the scat caterpillars leave on paper towels.
Buy PhotoMonarch caterpillars devour milkweed and leave scat everywhere. (Photo: Matt Steecker / Staff photo)
“When it’s crazy like this it’s a two and a half hour project. It’s like babysitting a hundred kids,” Cochran Teeter said. “They crawl all over the place. This is so much work, but it’s really gratifying.”
Cochran Teeter also feeds baby butterflies by holding onto them and using a syringe with sugar water. Each butterfly uses its proboscis to ingest its meal.
Buy PhotoA young monarch butterfly takes in sugar water through its proboscis. (Photo: Matt Steecker / Staff photo)
Before releasing the butterflies, Cochran Teeter puts tags on them.
Tagging the butterflies is an action the hairstylist takes as an individual who participates in Monarch Watch, a nonprofit cooperative network and program based out of the University of Kansas devoted to the research and conservation of butterflies.
Buy PhotoRose Cochran Teeter keeps this sticker on a mirror in her hair salon. (Photo: Matt Steecker / Staff photo)
“Monarch populations are declining due to a loss of habitat,” said Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch. “To assure a future for monarchs,
conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority.”