Many consider butterflies the most beautiful insects the world has to offer. Including a butterfly house in your garden is one way to attract these stunning bugs to your outdoor space. If you place a well-made butterfly house in a good location surrounded by butterfly-friendly flowers, you just might attract lots of lovely butterflies.
How to Build a Butterfly House
Butterfly houses are generally tall, narrow wooden boxes of simple construction. A wooden box about 2 1/2 feet tall, 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep with a hinged roof and slats in the front would work just fine. All you need to build one is some wood, a saw, a jigsaw, screws, a hinge, a screwdriver and some wood glue. Slats 3 inches long and a half-inch wide cut into the front are just the right size for butterflies to access the house. The butterfly house should be anchored to a pole or post at least 4 feet tall, or even attached to a tree at this height. Don't hang it, though -- if it swings in the wind, the delicate butterflies won't consider it safe. A piece of tree bark anchored to the back wall gives the insects something secure to cling to inside the butterfly house.
Positioning Your Butterfly House
Where you put your butterfly house is key to how many, if any, you'll attract. The best place is a spot where it will receive full sun but is in some way sheltered from strong wind -- for instance, next to a shed that can block some wind. Position your butterfly house a safe distance from bird houses and feeders -- otherwise your insect hotel will become an open buffet for your feathered friends. The closer your butterfly house is to butterfly- and caterpillar-friendly plants, the more likely it is they will find the structure and get comfortable in it.
Attracting Butterflies to Your Butterfly House
Certain flowers have developed a reputation as butterfly magnets. Your climate will determine what plants will grow best and which butterfly species are likely to visit your garden. Butterfly weed, aptly named, is known for drawing butterflies like the eastern tiger swallowtail and the cabbage white butterfly. Monarchs are fans of milkweed, butterfly bush and marigolds. Because butterflies eat nectar and caterpillars nibble on plants, different plants will attract caterpillars. For instance, painted lady caterpillars love to eat thistle, hollyhock and sunflower. Silver swallowtail larvae enjoy pawpaw, while black swallowtails happily munch on dill, parsley, fennel and carrot.
Types of Butterflies You Might See
Butterfly houses are primarily used by species that hibernate during the winter. Butterflies known to hibernate as adults include the Compton tortoiseshell, gray comma, mourning cloak, red admiral, hoary comma and question mark. Not all butterflies hibernate, though, and the species you can expect to attract depend on your geographic region. Some butterflies, like the monarch, migrate to warmer climates for winter and may roost in your butterfly house part of the year.
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Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.