Butterfly Farmer Nurtures Winged Pets

Dancetta Feary greets her wing-feathered friends — the butterflies she raises PHOTO COURTESY LINDA CHING

Dancetta Feary greets her wing-feathered friends — the butterflies she raises

Some believe that the purpose of every butterfly is to set aside everything that was once known — to transform and embrace an entire new way of life. Such was the case for butterfly farmer Dancetta Feary. When her brother Mackey, the lead singer for Kalapana, died Feb. 20, 1999, she felt something inside her had ended and her world came crashing down.

Since then, she has come out of depression, survived a divorce and left behind a solace state and devastation to discover a whole new life in the world of butterflies. She is nicknamed the Butterfly Realtor.

“I raise butterflies because they are my passion, and my goal is to keep them abundant for future generations,” she explains.

Over the past 10 years, the Kaneohe resident has reared tens of thousands of her graceful winged friends.

“I can have several hundred eggs, 500 caterpillars and dozens of butterflies in one given day, depending on the season,” she says.

She has set up a safe haven right in her backyard and butterfly house.

Born to Bryant Mackey Feary Sr. and Regina Chong Feary Okimoto, Dancetta was raised on Maunalani Heights (Wilhelmina Rise, Kaimuki) and lived for 30 years on a street called “Mariposa” Drive, which means butterfly.

“The favorite flower of some royalty is the crown flower, which is the host plant for monarch butterflies, where they lay their eggs,” says Dancetta, who organizes educational tours to encourage people to grow crown flowers again. “If there are no crown flowers, then there are no monarchs. During my childhood, there were a lot of crown flowers around, but over the years, more people have cut down the plants, which can grow high if not trimmed. People have lost interest in making crown flower lei,” she says. “We learn from butterflies because they are independent. Once the mother lays her eggs, that’s it. The babies are on their own until they morph into butterflies and fly into the sunset.”

Like her graceful, fluttering pets, Dancetta has become independent and strong. She doesn’t feel that she is living alone now because she is always greeted by her buzzing caterpillars, which eat nonstop and eventually morph into dazzling monarch dancers. There are four stages in the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

Most people walk their pets, but Dancetta sets aside one to two hours a day nurturing her monarchs, sometimes more, depending on whether cages need to be cleaned. “My neighbor Judy Tsukamoto spends four to five hours per day with them, since my real estate business has been keeping me busy,” she says. Tsukamoto peels caterpillars off Dancetta’s plants and transfers them into cages, so that predators can’t get to them. Dancetta’s monarchs are raised from eggs. She keeps some butterflies in an 8-by-8-foot cage so that they have room to fly, eat and mate.

“Everything is here for a reason, butterflies included. They show us how to navigate life, be independent and stay strong. They live in the moment and are loners, but yet they make it,” she says.

The monarchs’ vibrating wings generate blissful tunes as their predators lurk in the thick vegetation.

She has brought comfort to many, including singer Nohelani Cypriano.

“Nohelani came to me for butterflies to use for a photo shoot. It was for her recent album, which was dedicated to her mother, who loved butterflies. Nohelani also was featured at Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and sang her song Pulelehua, (butterfly). We released 300 monarchs into the field. It was an unbelievable sight that impressed the crowd.”

Dancetta credits family for her success in life.

“My maternal grandma raised me to be the overachiever I am today. Grandfather inspired me to pursue athletics. Dad worked hard and struggled to make ends meet for our family,” she explains.

Dancetta says her brother Mackey’s music continues to uplift her in times of need. “Also grateful to my life coach, Natalie Kawai, who helps me to find the strength within me to be freed,” she says.

Sometimes the beauty and aesthetic appeal of butterflies lead people into thinking they are fragile and that they need human intervention to survive.

The fact is, they don’t. Like her butterflies, Dancetta has transformed her weakness into strengths and has become a strong, independent individual.

“I enjoy sharing my butterflies with children to show them just how extraordinary they are, especially when the kids get up close and personal in my butterfly house,” she says. “They love to hold and feed the butterflies.”

For a woman who learned through the death of a loved one just how fragile life can be, she continues to showcase her passion in life by educating Hawaii about her graceful and fragile floating creatures. Dancetta treasures her precious moments with her monarchs as they wing off happily into their new world of sun and air.