Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) A new monarch butterfly exhibit is set to open this June at Wildwood Zoo.
Melissa and James Gwiazda, along with their two young daughters, are spearheading the project and working to turn the box turtle enclosure into a butterfly paradise. The family have raised hundreds of monarch butterflies at home for about four years in response to a dwindling population, last year releasing 600 into the wild. With the new 8×24 foot long enclosure, they hope to increase that number to a full 1,000.
“It will hold as many monarchs and caterpillars as we can put in it!” said Melissa. “Before the exhibit opens, we will be busy getting the enclosure ready to safely hold caterpillars and monarchs with as much natural habitat as possible. Mill Creek Gardens will be working with us to add plants and flowers, as they are sponsors to the exhibit.”
The Gwiazda family will stop by almost daily to check on food and release the butterflies that are ready to go. The public can be part of these weekly release events, to be announced on the Marshfield Monarchs: The Next Generation Facebook page and via Wildwood Zoo.
Melissa will paint a mural of monarch butterfly wings near the exhibit as a fun photo opportunity for passerby.
Zookeeper Steve Burns contacted the family last fall about helping start a butterfly exhibit that he’d been working to bring to the zoo.
“I noticed they had something on Facebook,” said Burns. “I started researching breeders where we would have butterflies shipped from the south, and that’s how we would stock our exhibit. I just happened to see them post.”
“We just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” said Melissa. “We’ve been wanting to get the public involved, which is why we started the Marshfield Monarch page last year.”
“It’s going to be a very cool exhibit. I’m excited to work with Marshfield Monarchs because they seem so dedicated and energetic and enthusiastic about their cause,” said Burns.
The butterfly exhibit will be an annual summer project so as to not interfere with migration. In the colder months, monarch butterflies travel all the way to Mexico to hibernate.
Meanwhile, the box turtle will share its residence with its new companions before moving to the upcoming Welcome Center.
“We can’t thank Steve and the Wildwood Zoo enough! We are excited to share this with everyone!” said Melissa.
Watch for the new exhibit opening during Zoofest, June 15.