Spring marks the beginning of the monarch butterfly migration North
(NBC News) -
It's springtime, and monarch butterflies are starting their migration from Mexico, eventually reaching as far north as Canada.
But the monarch population has been decreasing because much of their habitat and food are disappearing.
Oklahoma on landowners who are trying to restore habitat for monarchs.
Ray Moranz, Xerces Society said, "When folks think of what a butterfly looks like, they usually think of a large orange butterfly with black stripes, they think of monarchs. They're beautiful creatures with a fascinating life cycle."
A life cycle that depends on milkweed. It's where they lay their eggs, and what their tiny caterpillars eat.
Moranz said, "It's amazing, a female monarch can find milkweed plants that are an inch tall. Just by sense of smell, they can smell the milkweeds and then they land on it and lay an egg."
But in many areas milkweed and other grassland plants have been replaced by agricultural crops, and on this ranch by invasive cedar trees.
Bruce Reynolds, a rancher said, "So after we've dozed them out, the second step is we just let them dry."
This rancher is clearing the trees and setting prescribed fires, allowing nature to take over and restore the grassland that used to be here.
Grassland that welcomes monarchs.
And they're coming.
Moranz said, "Now that's some of the best monarch habitat I've ever seen, loaded with milkweeds and nectar sources."
Monarchs can migrate 3,000 miles to Mexico in the fall, and then come back, always targeted by predators and parasites.
Moranz said, "It is a dangerous world out there, and that's why it's important for us to have a lot of habitat to keep the life cycle going."
Reynolds said, "We need to do this because it's the right thing to do."
With more landowners doing this, there's still hope for migrating monarchs.