Affiliate Buzz: Grace Ridge Retirement Community Residents Raise and Release Monarchs

Grace Ridge
Grace Ridge Retirement Community residents in western North Carolina have been busy as bees recently with raising and releasing monarch butterflies. (Images from Grace Ridge Facebook page.)

As we continue National Pollinator Week, we’re sharing the latest buzz on Grace Ridge Retirement Community, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Morganton. While the community only recently joined North Carolina Wildlife Federation as an affiliate, its nature, garden and pollinator-loving residents and staff have long supported habitat restoration projects for pollinators.

The retirement community earned pollinator-friendly habitat designation as a Pollinator Pitstop along The Butterfly Highway. Our statewide conservation restoration initiative creates a network of native flowering plants to support butterflies, bees, birds and other pollen and nectar dependent wildlife. Grace Ridge is also listed as a “monarch waystation” through Monarch Watch.  

Grace Ridge

Recently, it’s been a hive of activity with residents raising and releasing monarch butterflies, “adopting” chrysalises, learning about beekeeping and sampling golden deliciousness at a honeybee party. 

In May, a resident found an interesting caterpillar on a blueberry bush that turned out to be a red-spotted purple butterfly larva. The resident collected the caterpillar, raised it in an indoor habitat, and released the butterfly into Grace Ridge’s pollinator garden. 

“The transformation was amazing! We love our pollinator garden and were so excited about this first butterfly release of the year,” said Lisa Miller, marketing and sales assistant.  

Recently, several residents raised and released 31 monarch butterflies and participated in an “Adopt-a-Chrysalis” adventure, where they each received a beautiful chrysalis hanging in a mesh habitat. Over five days, the butterflies emerged, and the residents personally released them in the community’s pollinator garden. 

Residents Buddy and Lee Helton coordinated, documented and took photos of everyone’s experience. Since retiring to Grace Ridge in October 2020, the couple has been spreading their pollinator love throughout the community through educational talks and monarch releases. 

“It was a wonderful way to start the first generation of monarchs for 2022. The first and second generations will continue north for the summer towards Canada. We look forward to having the third generation return in the fall to lay their eggs at Grace Ridge,” Lee said. “We’ll raise the fourth generation of monarchs in September and October. Like the fourth generation of monarchs released in fall 2021, these monarch butterflies will travel to the mountains of Mexico for the winter.”

Grace Ridge

Also, this month Miller earned her status as “queen bee.” At a honeybee party in the community’s dining room, the hobbyist beekeeper educated residents about beekeeping and how to make honey. The party ended on a sweet note, with honey samples, bread and cookies.  



Become an NCWF Affiliate – It’s the Bee’s Knees! 

Many wildlife conservation groups, organizations and businesses across the state make up North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s grassroots conservation network. Our affiliates are dedicated to improving conservation for all wildlife and wildlife habitat and protecting our state’s natural resources. They range from youth and adult groups to statewide organizations and local chapters or extensions of national or statewide organizations and associations.

Benefits include: 

  1. Timely information on wildlife issues and notification of critical public hearings and meetings.
  2. Opportunities to partner on conservation projects.
  3. Subscription to our quarterly Wild Lives, Wild Places Journal.
  4. Access to some of the nation’s top resource professionals.
  5. Website visibility.
  6. Award and recognition opportunities.

To learn more about affiliating with NCWF, contact Tara Moore, director of conservation partnerships, at [email protected].

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