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Carved raku butterfly tiles by Val Webb - $45

Lately, I’ve been carving butterflies — quite a few of them. It’s fun to try to capture their delicate wing structure and vivid color patterns in clay and glaze… and it’s a humane alternative to beautiful (but very dead) framed butterfly specimens. Early last year, when some entomologists predicted the demise of the world’s monarch population within 50 years, plenty of people were skeptical. Now it seems that this lovely species may have considerably less time remaining: 80 percent of the Oyamel fir trees upon which they overwinter have now been lost to illegal logging in Mexico, and torrential rains may have killed half the migratory population last year. The forecast seems grim.

Want to help the monarchs out? You can, in three simple ways:

Plant milkweed. Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and native milkweeds are increasingly rare. If you’re not sure where to find seeds in your area, there are some great sources online who can provide seeds and advice for milkweeds that will thrive in your climate zone.

Avoid pesticide use on your lawn and garden.  Chemicals in pesticides can drift, and are harmful to monarch caterpillars and adults.

 Eat organic foods. Glyphosate herbicides, routinely sprayed on corn and soybean crops in the United States, play a major role in monarch population loss. (And they aren’t good for you, either.)

They’re small steps, but important ones. And they can help ensure that your great-grandchildren will get to see migrating monarchs.