Commenting last week on the slow start to the monarch butterfly migration this year, Pat Sutton - co-author of "How to Spot a Butterfly" - said she thought the peak may arrive a little late.

Sutton said her garden in Dennis Township still had plenty of monarch caterpillars and she suggested many other gardens may still be producing butterflies.

Judging by my family's garden in Linwood, she is right. On our front porch right now, we have 22 monarch chrysalises, from which white-yellow-black caterpillars will emerge as big orange butterflies.

Like smooth, green, fat little pendants, the chrysalises hang from the porch edge, steps, rails, chairs and planters - there's even one inside the battery-powered faux candle.

With 22 soon-to-be butterflies on our 8-by-26-foot porch, who knows how many are in the much larger garden.

Populations of many kinds of butterflies in the Northeast are lower this year because of cooler, wetter weather. Even with a late surge in monarchs, this will almost certainly be a subpar year for the migration.

The Monarch Monitoring Project's average counts in the second and third weeks in September were 17 and 24 butterflies per hour.

The project records the monarchs seen by a single observer during a standardized 5-mile drive from the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area in Lower Township through West Cape May and Cape May Point, finishing at the west end of Sunset Boulevard in Lower Township.

Last year, the count was even lower at that point in September, but last year had the smallest count since the population crash of 2004.

Like many wildlife and particularly insect populations, monarchs cycle through booms and busts in reaction to food supplies and weather conditions.

The best years have seen early September counts of 77, in 2006, and 106, in 1999. When the butterflies peaked in late September-early October of those years, observers were averaging an amazing 325 to 475 butterflies per hour.

This year, the average is likely to peak at about 80 monarchs per hour - pleasant and beautiful, but not jaw-dropping.

Unlike many phenomena of nature, this one can easily be supported by people.

We can choose not to mow down the monarch's food plant - milkweed - where it grows wild along field edges in the region.

We can also plant milkweed in our gardens and yards in spring, and include nectaring flowers for butterflies such as monarchs and hummingbirds.

That is all we did, which resulted in the appearance of several dozen monarch butterflies.

Next time you see a monarch and enjoy its beauty, you might consider becoming a patron of such natural arts.

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