Every year millions of monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico from all across the United States for the winter.
We visited an organization in Little Village that has raised thousands of monarchs and come together each year for a butterfly release.
Joanna Hernandez: 30-year-old Belen Chavez can tell you everything you need to know about the life cycle of monarch butterflies.
Belen Chavez: They lay 100 eggs in one week. When you see the eggs, you have to grab them because spiders, birds can get them and even the caterpillars.
Hernandez: Chavez has been attending El Valor for the last seven years. A nonprofit organization that offers dozens of programs and resources for adults and kids with disabilities.
Belen’s father tells us his daughter’s journey hasn’t been easy as she suffers from bad seizures and memory loss.
Eugenio Chavez: It’s not as frequent anymore. She had brain surgery, and thank God the seizures have gone down.
Hernandez: Eugenio Chavez says programs like the butterfly release have helped his daughter grow and find a passion for nurturing animals.
Eugenio Chavez: It has helped her so much. In fact, she has about 16 cocoons at home and once they are a butterfly, she will let them go.
Hernandez: El Valor has been patterning with the U.S Forest Service to conserve monarch butterflies for 15 years.
Jillian Gonzalez of El Valor: It does so many things. It’s obviously educational and STEM-based. Secondly, it represents migration and so many members of our communities are from different places. And by bringing them all together and representing this freedom in migration and the importance of that just speaks to the heart and soul of El Valor.
Hernandez: From the youngest participants to adults, everyone learns how to take care of this delicate and beautiful species.
Gonzalez: The children raise them. They find the eggs out in the environment, so they’re getting to explore nature, which is hard in the city and especially in these times to be free and enjoy it.
Hernandez: Friends Vicente and Ivan are two of thousands of participants who’ve been taking care of 150 monarchs as they burst out of their cocoons and get ready to travel south for the winter.
Ivan: “We give them food and let them go out so they can fly to Mexico.”
Hernandez: The monarch butterflies’ journey is a long one but they’re expected to reach Michoacán, Mexico in November.
Belen Chavez is now teaching anyone willing to listen the importance of taking care of fragile butterflies.
Belen Chavez: It’s on top of your hair. That’s why you’re supposed to put them where you can get more air.
Hernandez: Do you think it’s getting air right now?
Belen Chavez: Well, the wings are starting to open and close, but it’s still not ready to fly because it’s right there.
Hernandez: Once the wings are strong, the students have to say goodbye to their monarchs and hope the come back to Chicago next year.