A 501(c)3 Non-Profit

Please wait, authorizing ...
Not a member? Sign up now
We raise Monarchs in terrariums in the Orchard store from egg to larva to chrysalis to butterfly. Each fall we tag the migrating generation prior to release. So far we have had six of our tags recovered in their over-wintering grounds in Mexico. Why do we do it? We hatch monarch butterflies to help save them from natural enemies and to delight in the life cycle of this beautiful gift of nature. Each step is exciting every time we experience it and we love to share this experience with our visitors. 
Preserving the natural environment is an important part of our mission and monarch butterflies continue to top that list. Elizabeth Hunter, writer, teacher, and mentor got us started. She wondered if monarchs could coexist in a traditional, carefully controlled, chemical apple orchard. Enlisting cofounders Kit Trubey and Judy Carson, the trio soon discovered the answer was YES.

The Orchard is a natural home of milkweed, the larval host plant for monarchs. The only place female monarchs lay eggs is the underside of milkweed leaves. The trio soon planted a flower garden with Monarch-attractive flowers to fuel the annual monarch migration to over-winter in Mexico. They trained the orchard field crew to preserve the milkweed and the store staff to collect the eggs and nurture them through the amazing life cycle of egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

The butterfly dries out from its chrysalis birth, tests its new wings and flies away. Those born in September, generally the 6th generation of the year, fly all the way to Mexico, more than 1,500 miles from the Orchard, where they spend the winter. Hunter introduced us to Monarch Watch where we were trained in the art of tagging the migrating butterflies. Six of the hundreds the Orchard has tagged over the years have been found in Mexico at the migration site.

However, the number of Monarchs through the Orchard has decreased significantly over the first 25 years. That increases our determination to be a monarch friendly stop on the monarch life cycle map.

Our monarch butterfly preservation project was featured in Blue Ridge Country Magazine,  in an article by naturalist and Orchard volunteer Elizabeth Hunter. Please take a moment and read the article,  “Saving the Good Stuff”. 

Learn more about monarch butterflies.


Milkweed for Monarchs!Milkweed, the larval plant for the monarch, is plentiful at The Orchard as are the monarchs. Unlike some other species of butterflies, monarchs have only one larval plant, so they depend on milkweed for survival. In areas where milkweed is scarce, monarchs are too. Unfortunately, the wild milkweed plant is frequently mowed down when development projects begin. We encourage you to plant milkweed around your home or property and to remind others to do the same. We are happy to share milkweed plants and seeds from our grounds to help others contribute to preserving this species

Informational Videos


An exciting new study examining flight ability and genetics of eastern vs western monarchs

Greetings everyone,Apologies for the long wait between posts. Between managing the kids during the lockdown, keeping the lab research going, and even moving houses (!), I haven't been able to keep up with this blog. But today I'm sitting at my computer for the first time in a while and I am itching to write about this new study that was just published. I'll bet you have never even heard of it too! It was quietly published, with no fanfare, no press, and in a journal that most folks except us



Monarchs aren't the only species being altered by captive-rearing

(this photo taken by Jonathan Armstrong, a former student of Tom's)Hello everyone,I have something very interesting to talk about in today's blog, which directly relates to the topic from the previous post about captive-reared monarchs. It's not necessarily about a new study, but more of a summary of research from outside the world of monarchs. Recall that in the last post I described the newest study from the Davis lab which was a comparison of captive-reared and wild monarchs. Well, after that



New study shows captive-reared monarchs are wimps and have poorly-suited wings for migration!

Hi everyone,I suspect I have your attention with the title of this post! Yes, you read it correctly, and yes, I mean exactly what it says. A new scientific study was just published in the journal, Biology Letters, spearheaded by myself and some talented students here at the University of Georgia, and these were the exact findings of the study. Today I'm going to tell you all about this project. So grab a cup of coffee, strap yourself in, and be prepared to have your mind blown.So before I begin,




1025 Orchard Road

Spruce Pine, NC 28777

Blue Ridge Parkway
(mile marker 328.3)



Follow Us

Stay Informed

2020 HOURS


Thru NOV 1
10 AM to 5 PM
(Currently no live music)

Please Help!

Copyright © The Historic Orchard at Altapass 2020. All Rights Reserved. Site designed by Blue Ridge Visions