By Joe Bachman
“Monarch, monarch, where will you go? I’ll fly away to Mexico!”
PORT EDWARDS — The last lines of a poem read by retired school teacher Kathy McGrath to her students to recall the over 1,800 mile trip monarch butterflies make from Port Edwards to Mexico.
This comes as part of a large-scale mark and recapture study of the monarch butterfly, much of which begins in the Monarch Habitat in Port Edwards. Headed by Kathy McGrath and her husband Pat, the Village has been designated as the first “Monarch Village” in the country. They were also featured in the August Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources magazine.
Neighbors throughout the village bring the couple caterpillars when found, where they are cared for and raised in their home and garden. After about a month, the monarchs are tagged and released into the wild. Many, however, are kept at the Monarch Habitat, located on the corner of Market St. and Third Ave. in Port Edwards.
The McGraths, along with habitat builder Steve Birno are hopeful that a garden will be grown surrounding the enclosure, as well as park benches to beautify the area. There is also room for potential expansion of the structure, which is retrofitted for changes to best accommodate the monarchs.
“I built this so that it’s expandable,” said Birno. “I try to keep it as open as possible, and there are places the monarchs can shelter from storm or whatever else.”
The habitat helps ensure the survival rate of the butterfly, as their rate of success hits nearly 90 percent — without it, only one out of every 100 eggs laid will become a monarch.
“The big thing is that this will draw attention and educate,” said Pat McGrath. “It’ll bring awareness, and the more people know about it, the better off the monarchs will be.”
Monarchs, like bees, are pollinators, and play a pivotal role in the environment and food supply.
“The more you educate people, and those who have never raised them before say that they can’t believe what a cool thing this is,” said Kathy McGrath. “When you see that egg and watch the whole life cycle, it’s phenomenal.”