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  A new generation, for a better world.

Children of Terra

Journal

Journal

Bugs, bats, and birds: Building a DIY Bughouse

Posted on October 24, 2019 at 12:20 AM

Finish this sentence: Bugs are…

 

I’m really hoping your answers were something along the lines of “awesome" or “extremely beneficial", because they are! Bugs are (at least partially) responsible for pollination, maintaining the health of our soil, recycling nutrients, and even breaking down our waste! Some species are beneficial in that they prey on bugs that may harm our crops or carry disease. Not only are they beneficial, but they can be pretty darn adorable when you get to see them up close.

 

With how important bugs actually are, a lot of people are starting to see them in a different light, so much so that things like bug hotels and feeders are becoming extremely popular. In fact, it’s gotten kind of difficult to walk through a store or browse social media without coming across something bug related. You can easily go out and buy a bug hotel, but they often don’t use materials that would actually be found in your area. Some even hurt the idea of sustainability with plastic fittings that can’t be properly maintained. In this post, we'll show you how to build a basic DIY bug house, as well as where to install it and how to provide basic maintenance. If done right, this project should provide you at least a couple of years of up-close insect study.

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What you'll need:

 

-A wood plank

 

-Clean steel cans

 

-A drill

 

-Screws

 

-A screwdriver

 

-Nesting materials

 

Instructions:

 

If you are using untreated wood, you’re already ahead of the game! If not, you may need to sand a finish or varnish off of the wood. These types of treatments can be harmful to your potential insect residents later on. You need to prepare the cans to be attached to the wood. To do so, simply drill a hole in the bottom of each can, just large enough for your screw to fit in. If you don’t have a drill, don’t fret! Fill your cans with water and freeze them. Once frozen, use a hammer and nail to drive a hole through from the outside. The ice inside should prevent the can from bending or denting as you do. Melt the ice out and make sure the cans are completely dry before moving any further.

 

Next, attach the cans to the wood board by screwing them in from the inside. This is where your screwdriver comes in handy, since most drill bits aren’t long enough to reach inside the can. Make sure that they are tight enough that the cans don’t spin or wobble on the board. Next, you’ll need to prepare some nesting materials.

 

For our bughouse, we collected some natural materials from our yard. For one can, we cut sticks down to the length of the can and drilled holes into them of various sizes. For another can, we used hollow pieces of grass reeds. For the last can, we used a mixture of small pinecones, grass ribbons, and wood bark. It’s important to do some research on the bugs on your area and what you hope to attract when deciding on your nesting materials. Certain bees prefer holes of a particular size, certain beetles prefer a specific type of wood, etc. Many guides will tell you to avoid pinecones or that they serve no purpose, but we’ve found that they can provide great habitat for some local species of beetles which, in turn, attracted small spiders. Once you’ve selected and prepared your nesting materials, it's time to install them! Use compression to hold the materials, meaning just pack them in tight enough not to move. Avoid using any adhesives as they can be harmful to your potential residents, and make maintenance more difficult later on.

 

You’re almost done! At this point, you may want to apply a layer or two of waterproofing to help protect the cans and keep them from rusting. We found a brand that is nontoxic and environmentally friendly, which is important for this project. After you’ve applied the waterproofing, go ahead and drill a few holes in the board to create a little more habitable space. And that's it, you’re done with the build! Now you just have to choose the right place to install it.

 

Choosing your spot:

 

This part is just as important as how the bughouse is built! Without the right location, all of your efforts may be for nothing. Predators, temperature, and even the weather can affect whether or not you’ll find residents in your bughouse. You’ll need to choose a spot that meets the following criteria:

 

-At least a meter off of the ground.

 

-In full, or at least mostly full, sun.

 

-Facing the direction that gets the most sunlight. Usually south or southeast.

 

-Protected from the rain

 

If your spot isn’t quite protected from the rain, you may want to add a roof to your bughouse. Too much moisture can cause issues with mold and parasites. Make sure that when you install it, you do it in such a way that you’ll be able to easily remove the bughouse at the end of the season. We’ll get into why a little further down.

 

Maintenance:

 

A few of the biggest concerns when it comes to the longevity of your bughouse and the health of the residents in it are disease, parasites (such as mites), molds, and weather. There are a few basic actions you can take to help prevent these issues, starting with the nesting materials. Most recommendations call for replacing or sterilizing the nesting materials every two years, at most. Remember when we said to try and avoid using adhesives? This is why. I prefer to change a tube or section once I see that it has been abandoned, though this may take some time and observation to figure out the best times to do so. The same goes for mold. If you see a section or a tube starting to be overtaken with a mold or fungus, you may need to replace it.

 

We already kind of addressed the weather when we were figuring out where to place the bughouse. Too much moisture or direct rain can harm the residents, and provide better conditions for some species of mites and fungus. Moisture isn’t the only issue, though! Winter weather can be brutal on residents that develop slowly through the seasons, such as mason bees. To help address this issue, it may be best to move the whole bughouse somewhere that’s a bit more protected for the season, such as a shed or garden bin. Some extremely experienced bughouse owners will actually remove, wash, and store developing pupa in their homes for the winter to ensure a better chance of success.

 

That’s (mostly) it! Make sure you do your research, though! This is only a basic rundown of keeping a bughouse. Depending on the species you see take residence in it, where you live, and the materials you’ve used, you may need more information to keep your bughouse clean and productive.

 

How did your bughouse turn out? What kinds of critters are you hoping to see or have seen in it? Let us know in the comments below, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Categories: How-To's, Upcycling and DIY, leafSTEM: Connecting Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math with the Environment

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