Sitting comfortably in the garden, watching the butterflies at work and letting your mind wander – more relaxation is hardly possible. Unfortunately, butterflies are becoming increasingly rare in our gardens. In fact, many species are now even acutely threatened with extinction. So it’s high time to do something good for the animals. A butterfly box is an important contribution and can be built quickly.
Butterflies are always bound to very specific living conditions. These may differ fundamentally from species to species, but what they have in common is that the animals need food and protection. Both are increasingly lacking, especially in our gardens. Ideal for the butterflies would be so-called wild gardens, in which in the summer the most diverse flowers, shrubs and grasses proliferate, the lawn is not trimmed meticulously and in the fall also times heaps of leaves and fruit fallen from the tree remain. Today, however, the reality is usually different. A neat, spotlessly clean garden may be the pride of a garden owner, but it is no longer suitable as a habitat for butterflies. Now, you don’t have to let every garden go completely wild to help the animals. But a little less septic cleanliness it may be.
A so-called butterfly box can make an important contribution to improving the living conditions of butterflies in our gardens. Above all, it offers the animals protection from wind and weather. Especially in winter, it reliably ensures that the winged insects, which are butterflies, do not freeze to death – no matter what stage of development the animal is currently in. Although quite a few species leave our latitudes during the winter and seek warmer regions, there are also various butterflies that hibernate here. However, the box does not only make sense during the winter months. Heavy storms and heavy rains can become a major threat to butterflies throughout the year. Here, too, the butterfly box provides that protection that the animals would otherwise not find.
To build a butterfly box yourself is not a big challenge. The construction can be done relatively easily even by rather inexperienced people. The expenditure of material and
tools keeps itself thereby within borders. Normally, the time needed to build the box is well under two hours. The following materials and tools are needed:
- untreated wooden boards
- small square or round timbers
- stainless steel nails
You can basically think of a butterfly box as a small birdhouse. The construction is correspondingly. It consists of four side walls, a bottom wall and a sloping roof. The big difference to the bird house, however, is that there is no entrance hole at the front. Rather, vertical slots are cut in the wall, which can take up almost the entire length of the board. The butterflies then enter the box through these slits and can also leave it this way. Inside, two or three square or round timbers are attached to which the animals can cling or lay eggs. The size of the butterfly box is largely up to the hobbyist.
Tip: The size should be based on the width of the available boards. This saves additional work steps and may also reduce costs.
Cutting to size
The first step is to cut the boards to size. If you buy them in a hardware store, it is usually possible to have them cut directly there. Otherwise, simply use a jigsaw with a saw blade suitable for wood. It must be
be considered that the roof should be attached necessarily in inclination, so that rain water can flow off better. It does not matter whether you choose a gable roof or a simple pitched roof. The desired slope or the two slopes must first be marked on the two boards with a ruler and pencil. Only then is the cut made exactly along the line.
Tip: You can achieve a better and more accurate result by beveling both side boards at the same time. Simply lay them carefully on top of each other.
As we know, butterflies appear to us as extremely delicate creatures. First and foremost, we focus on their often gossamer wings. It is then easy to forget the body on which the wings hang. In order for a butterfly to enter the butterfly box, it needs an opening through which its entire body can fit. The width of the entrance slits, which are placed at the front, is therefore also of great importance. In order for any butterfly species to be able to enter the box, the width should be one centimeter. This is usually sufficient. They also need to run vertically, and can cover almost the entire front side. The number of slits depends on the size of the box – but it should be two to four. This is how to proceed:
- the slits are first drawn on the board with a pencil and ruler
- an upper and lower margin of three to four centimeters should be observed
- then cut them out along the lines with a jigsaw
- the edges of the slits must then be sanded smooth with sandpaper.
The third step is to join the individual parts together. To do this, the boards are first nailed to the base plate. It is essential to use stainless steel nails for nailing. Under no circumstances should the boards be glued together with wood glue, as the vapors that the glue develops can harm the butterflies. Depending on the size of the box, two or three nails per side are usually perfectly sufficient for attaching to the bottom. It is best to nail the beveled side panels to the bottom panel first, and then nail the front and back panels to both the bottom and the two side panels. Before you attach the roof, small square or round timbers are simply clamped inside the structure at different heights.
Tip: It is recommended that the roof protrudes a little beyond the structure on all sides to be able to protect it from rain.
The shell of the butterfly box is now complete. Now it is time for the individual design. A non-toxic, environmentally friendly impregnation or paint is recommended to protect against wind and weather. Of course, the box can also be colorfully painted. However, only non-toxic paints or varnishes may be used for this purpose. In principle, there are no limits to the imagination. You can give your own creativity free rein. However, it is always important not to use any materials that could be dangerous to the butterflies. In terms of varnishes and colors, it is best to seek advice in a specialty store, so as not to make a mistake in the selection.
The big question now is, of course, where the butterfly box is placed or hung. Basically, all places in the garden are suitable, which are reasonably protected from the wind. By the way, the box will be even more tempting for butterflies if it is placed near flowers or flowering plants at all. Also ideal is the vicinity of open water, for example, a garden pond.