LITTLE VILLAGE — In Little Village and Pilsen, butterflies began their long trek south Thursday.
More than 100 Monarch butterflies were released at the Carlos H. Cantu Children & Family Center, 2434 S. Kildare Ave., to begin their annual migration to sanctuaries in Mexico.
Since 2009, El Valor and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs have used the butterflies as key learning tools for children 5 and under in Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Little Village and Pilsen.
Through the butterfly program, El Valor teaches kids vocabulary and environmental science while promoting parental involvement in Mexican-American communities across Chicago, said Vanessa Figueroa, an El Valor spokeswoman.
Monarch butterflies are a significant cultural symbol for immigrants, according to Rey Gonzalez, president of El Valor. The organization provides opportunities for Little Village and Pilsen residents to raise the butterflies at home and sponsors exploration activities for 800 students in neighborhood classrooms throughout the year.
Recent reports indicate that fewer monarch butterflies are migrating back to Mexico because of the decline in milkweed, the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, Figueroa said. Milkweed is also the primary food source for monarch caterpillars in the United States.
In 2004, an estimated 550 million Monarch butterflies completed the winter migration, according to U.S. Forest Service numbers. In 2013, only 33 million Monarch butterflies completed the trek.
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