By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
A butterfly shelter is an attractive addition to your garden, but more importantly, it’s an interesting way to attract a variety of beautiful butterflies. Exactly what is a butterfly house?
A butterfly shelter is a dark, cozy area that provides a place for butterflies to rest, safely away from birds and other predators. Some types of butterflies may use the shelter to hibernate during the winter. Keep reading for tips on creating a house for butterflies.
Building a butterfly house is a fun, inexpensive weekendproject. All you need is a couple pieces of lumber and a few basic tools.
A house for butterflies is constructed of nearly any type ofuntreated lumber and basically enclosed. They are often made of recycled wood.Butterfly homes are usually tall and narrow, often about 11 to 24 inches (28-61cm.) tall and 5 to 8 inches (13-20 cm.) across, but the shape and size aren’t critical.The roofs are usually (but not always) peaked.
Narrow vertical slits on the front of the butterfly shelterallow butterflies to enter the house and are too small for hungry birds toenter. The slits measure approximately four inches (10 cm.) tall and ½ to ¾inch across. Spacing of the slits doesn’t really matter. Butterfly houses areusually hinged on the back; however, some even have removable tops, like lids.
Completed butterfly homes are installed on a pipe or board,about three or four feet (about 1 m.), above the ground. Place your home awayfrom harsh winds. If possible, locate near the edge of a wooded area, be surethe spot is sunny though; butterflies aren’t attracted to shady locations.
Leave your completed home as-is to blend in with your gardenor paint it yellow, purple, red, or other butterfly-friendly colors. Nontoxicpaint is safest for butterflies. Leave the inside unpainted.
A variety of nectar-rich plants nearby will attract butterflies.Examples of butterfly-friendlyplants include:
A shallow dish of water or birdbath nearby will providehydration to keep butterflies healthy and well-hydrated. Place a few twigsor a piece of bark inside the butterfly shelter.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Beneficial Garden Friends
You may hear a lot of arguments about whether or not butterfly houses actually "work". Butterflies are most likely to use the houses during hibernation. They may also use them during the warm months at night as a roosting spot. Our feeling is that most of them go unoccupied by butterflies, but they sure do make the garden pretty and more interesting.
With a butterfly house you can m ake many types of butterfly feel welcome and protected from bad weather in your yard or garden. Look over this list of suggestions to find the best places to hang your butterfly house.
Hang the House Well above the Ground
Install your butterfly house on a sturdy tree limb or hanging from a slim pole 4 to 6 feet above the ground.
Hang the Butterfly House Near Flowers
Hang your butterfly house in close proximity to the butterfly's favorite food: flower nectar. Place the butterfly house over your garden, which needs such flowers as asters, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, zinnias, hollyhocks and blanketflowers.
Hang the House in Sunlight
If you hang the house in an area of bright sunlight, its walls and slotted panels will provide adequate shade for the butterflies when they fly in for a rest. The butterflies will also find the house more attractive if it is richly colored, in blues, yellows and pinks.
Place a cheesecloth bag of crushed, dried leaves from birch, willow and nettle on the floor inside the house. The scent of these leaves is attractive to butterflies. Stand up some pieces of bark inside the house so the butterflies think they are resting on a tree trunk.
By Erin Huffstetler | 05/03/2013 | 6 Comments
This post may contain affiliate links. View our disclosure.
Attracting butterflies to your garden starts with having the right plants, but if you want them to stick around, you also need to give them a place to hibernate and lay their eggs. This butterfly house does just that, and it’s easy to build.
What You’ll Need:
Untreated lumber: – a 1″ x 6″ x 8′ board and a 1″ x 10″ x 12″ board
Finishing nails (1-1/2″ long)
Circular saw (or a hand saw)
Drill and 1/2-inch drill bit
Framing square and/or speed square
A Pencil or marker)
Pictured left to right. 1st row: roof panel, bottom block, roof block 2nd row: left side, front panel, back panel, right side
Step 1: Measure and cut the lumber to size:
Left side – 5-1/2″W x 21-7/8″L* (*Note: Back edge is 21-7/8″L, and front edge is 16-3/8″L. This will give you a 45 degree roof pitch)
Right side – 5-1/2″W x 21-7/8″L* (*Note: Back edge is 21-7/8″L and front edge is 16-3/8″L. This will give you a 45 degree roof pitch)
Back panel – 5-1/2″W x 21-7/8″L (Cut the board to the proper length. Then, set the circular saw to 45 degrees, and bevel the top edge)
Front panel – 5-1/2″W x 17-1/8″L (Cut the board to the proper length. Then, set the circular saw to 45 degrees, and bevel the top edge)
Bottom block – 5-1/2″W x 4″L
Roof block – 5-1/2″W x 6-1/8″L (Cut the board to proper length bevel the front edge at 45 degrees then, flip it over and bevel the back edge at 45 degrees.
Out of the 1″ x 10″ x 12″ cut …
Roof panel – 8-1/2″W x 11-1/4″L Cut the board to the proper size, and bevel the front and back edges, just as you did for the roof block.
Step 2: Attach the sides to the back panel.
Step 3: Attach the bottom.
Step 4: Attach the front panel.
Step 5: Center the roof block on the roof panel. Then, attach it with finishing nails, and set it aside.
Step 6: Mark the butterfly slot locations. Eight in total.
Step 7: Drill a hole at the top and bottom of each slot.
Step 8: Then, finish cutting the slots with a jigsaw.
Step 9: Sand away any splinters.
Step 10: Gather some small tree limbs and bark, and stick them inside the house. Then, set the roof into place (Do not attach the roof with nails it’s supposed to be removable).
Step 11: Find a sunny spot in your garden for your butterfly house, and wait for butterflies to move in.
For more information about how to attract butterflies to your garden, check out this article by the National Wildlife Federation.
Place your butterfly house approximately four feet high on a post, fence, or tree in an area sheltered from strong winds. Wind movement makes butterflies feel unsafe, so it is not a good idea to hang the house where it might sway. The edge of a wooded area is an ideal location the trees provide a safety factor while the open area provides room for nectar plants.
Host plants should be planted nearby. Willow, elm, buckthorn, nettles and hops serve as host plants for the butterflies mentioned earlier. Plant a variety of nectar plants around the butterfly house such as asters, milkweed, phlox, purple coneflower, and wild bergamot.
A butterfly house is a beautiful addition to any garden. If you need more info on creating a butterfly garden, we have that too! Follow the steps and you might just be delighted when these amazing winged insects make your house their home.