Butterfly House Plans: How to Build a Butterfly House
Building a butterfly house is one of those woodworking projects that are fun to make, yet don't take a lot of time to complete. Just a few pieces of lumber and an hour or soon the workshop, and the result is an interesting handcrafted accent for any garden.
While entomologists and biologists question whether or not butterflies will actually use a butterfly house to take shelter from the storm, gardeners will agree that a butterfly box looks great in the garden.
I made the original butterfly house from scraps of mahogany salvaged from a discarded pallet that was destined for the landfill. I really like the look of the weathered mahogany, and the lichens growing on the roof are an added bonus. The butterfly box looks right a home in our garden.
Cedar, pine ad redwood are cheaper and easier to find than mahogany, and these are also good choices for building a butterfly house. Put out into the garden and left untreated, the wood will weather naturally to a warm silvery-gray color.
For a more colorful option, I made another butterfly box out of inexpensive pine and then painted it in bright colors. Attaching a few small decorative bits will add a touch of whimsy, and makes every butterfly house unique.
Here's how I made this simple butterfly house. It is an easy weekend project that requires just a few pieces of wood and some common hand tools. Make two butterfly houses, and give one as gift to a gardening friend.
Butterfly House Plans: Build A Butterfly House
The Cutting List
To make the box, start by cutting the boards to the following dimensions:
- Front: 22" long x 5" wide
- Back: 22" long x 5" wide
- Sides: 19" long x 3-½" wide (two pieces needed)
- Roof: 4" x 5-½" (two pieces needed)
- Bottom: 3-½" x 3-½"
- Mounting Block: 6" x 3" x 1-½"
The butterfly house is a basic box with a peaked roof. One side opens on a simple hinge, allowing access to the inside for cleaning or for mounting it to a post.
To cut the peaks for the roofline, mark the center of the front and back pieces. Lay out the 30 degree angles long one end of each piece. Cut along the marks to form the peaked ends.
Next, lay out the entrance slots on the front section. The butterfly box in the diagram (below) has six slots that are 5" long by 3/8" wide. The exact locations are not critical. I centered the middle slots, then laid out the locations for other slots in a pleasing pattern.
Using a 3/8" drill bit, drill a hole at each end of the slot. Then use a jig saw to cut out the rest of the slot. Smooth out any rough spots with a file.
Cut one edge of the roof sections at a 30 degree angle to match the peaks on the front and back pieces. Fitted together, the 30 degree cuts on the roof sections form the peaked roof.
I stained and painted the pieces before beginning the final assembly. The front piece is painted red, and the roof sections are stained ebony black. The rest of the pieces were stained white. Only the exterior was painted or stained.
Some Assembly Required
Begin the assembly by attaching the front to one of the side pieces with exterior screws or nails. Align the bottom edges of both pieces before securing them together.
Attach the bottom to the front and side assembly, and then attach the back section.
Line up the remaining side with the bottom of the front and back pieces. To create a hinged door, secure the side section to the front assembly with one nail or screw driven into edge approximately 1" down from the top.
Then, finish the hinged side by driving one nail or screw one through the back to form a pivot point. Position the hinge nails or screws in the front and back sections directly across from each other, enabling the door to open easily (refer to the side view drawing).
Drill and countersink a screw hole along the center of the bottom edge of the hinged door. A single short screw will secure the door, yet allow easy access to the butterfly boxes for cleaning.
Position the roof sections by attaching the pieces to the front and back sections. Do not nail the roof pieces to the side section which forms the hinged door. The butterfly box is ready for the garden, or for some brightly colored paint.
Mount the finished garden butterfly box to a post in the garden. To use a section of ¾" copper pipe as a post, attach a small piece wood (approximately 6" long x 3" wide x 1-½" thick) to the inside of the butterfly house, securing it from the back with a couple of nails or screws. Drill a ¾" hole though the bottom and into the block, and then mount the butterfly box on to a section of copper pipe.
Butterfly House Plans:
Tips for Attracting Butterflies:
Plant a perennial flower garden
Include milkweeds and native wildflowers
Provide shrubs for shelter
Avoid using pesticides
Don't forget a water source
Build a butterfly house!
Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden
Butterflies are beautiful creatures and every gardener enjoys seeing these delightful insects floating and fluttering amidst the blooms in their gardens. Inviting the many different types types of butterflies such as Monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies and red admirals is as easy as planting the types of plants and flowers that they like to eat, both as caterpillars and then later on as adults.
Attracting butterflies to the garden does not require a lot of space, and many nectar providing annuals and perennials can be grown successfully in containers. By planting the types of plants that butterflies need for each phase of their lifecycle from laying eggs and feeding hungry caterpillars to the providing nectar for adults ensures that these wonderful visitors to your gardens year after year.
Butterflies are attracted to flowers with bright colors and a strong fragrance. Plant your butterfly garden in full sun, and include the blooms of purple coneflowers, coreopsis and tickseeds, bee balm, and the popular buddleia butterfly bushes. Many annuals offer nectar filled blooms, including cosmos, marigolds and geraniums. Adding native plants such as goldenrod, thistle and Joe Pye weed increases the diversity in the garden and provides natural food sources for butterflies, and may encourage butterflies to stay in the garden longer and perhaps, to lay their eggs and begin the cycle for the next generation.
Add a water source such as a birdbath. Change the water often to keep it fresh, and place a few small stones on the bottom of the birdbath to provide landing areas for the butterflies.
To keep the butterflies and their caterpillars healthy avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides that kill the beneficial insects along with all of the bad bugs.
And don't forget to add a butterfly house!
Did you know?
There are over 17,000 species of butterflies worldwide. More than 750 species of butterflies live in North America.
The smallest butterfly, the blue pigmy found in California, is less than Â½ inch in size. The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra of New Guinea, and can measure 12 inches from wingtip to wingtip.
Butterflies cannot eat, and can only drink. Used to sip nectar from flowers, the butterfly's long flexible tongue is called the proboscis.
Butterflies can see ultraviolet light, which aids them in their search for nectar-filled flowers. They are only active during the day, and rest at night in sheltered areas.
Butterflies cannot hear. They taste through their feet, and smell through their antenna.
Many types of butterflies have toxic chemicals in their bodies. Their brightly colored wings warn birds and other potential predators of their foul-tasting chemical defense.
Most adult butterflies live only 20 to 40 days. Some can live up to six months, though some live for only a few days.
Attracting Butterflies by Bird Man Mel
This short video shows you how to attract butterflies to your backyard, how to keep them coming back, and to create a natural and butterfly safe environment.
Do You Encourage Butterflies to Visit Your Garden?
A Swallowtail Visits Our Garden
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Does a butterfly house really work?
While gardeners may question whether or not butterflies will actually use a butterfly house, most will agree that a butterfly box looks great in the garden.Helpful 9
Does the butterfly house have to be narrow?
The shape and overall dimensions are not critical. I shared the shape and sizes that I use for my butterfly houses. Have fun building yours!Helpful 7
You don't mention what length and width of boards are needed to accomplish the task described in this article?
The Cutting List section outlines the dimensions for each piece:
Front: 22" long x 5" wide
Back: 22" long x 5" wide
Sides: 19" long x 3-½" wide (two pieces needed)
Roof: 4" x 5-½" (two pieces needed)
Bottom: 3-½" x 3-½"
Mounting Block: 6" x 3" x 1-½"
Have fun building the butterfly house for your garden!Helpful 7
I'm making the butterfly house. I have made the 30 degree angle on the front and back boards but it is not matching with the two sides. Do I need to modify it with another angle cut to match up with the side boards?
The front and back pieces are longer than the side pieces (not including the peaks). When the box is assembled with all of the bottom edges aligned, the sides are shorter than the front and back. This creates a gap under the roofline for air circulation.
If your side pieces meet up with the angled peaks of the front and back sections, you can either shorten the length of the side pieces or cut the top edges at the same 30-degree angle as the roof line. Then the pieces should line up correctly.Helpful 6
Should anything be put inside of the butterfly house for them to rest on such as moss or bark?
I placed a couple of sticks and sturdy plant stalks into the butterfly house an angle to provide the bugs with a place to land and rest.Helpful 6
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna