Step 2 – Trim your side boards and bottom
Once you have the main pieces cut, you need to trim 1-in. off width of the sides and bottom pieces. For the sides of the Flat Roof, that’s two of the 14-in. long pieces; for the peaked roof it’s the the two 11¼-in. pieces.
(Step 2a – For the Peaked Roof only)
On your front and back pieces, mark the top vertical center of the board (at 2¾-in.), then draw a line horizontally 11¼-in. up from the bottom. Using a straight edge, draw a line from the top center to both edges of the board where you made the horizontal line.
Use a saw to cut off the corners of the board to make your roof peaks.
Step 3 – Cut your slots in the front piece
Mark the location of where your slots will go on the front piece. They need to be at least 4-in. long and no wider than ½-in. (I used a 3/8-in. drill bit to size the holes).
It doesn’t really matter how many slots — 2 to 4 is fine — bugs aren’t picky, just as long as they’ve got enough enclosed space to hide.
Using your drill, drill a hole at the top and the bottom of where your slots will go. Then, using a hacksaw, jig or coping saw, cut the slots out between the holes.
Step 4 – Build the box
The sides are cut to fit inside the front and back pieces. Run a bead of glue along the edge of a side piece, align it with the bottom of the front piece, and nail it together with a few finish nails. Repeat for the back piece and the other side.
Once you’ve got the four pieces nailed together, add a little glue to the edge of the bottom piece, slide it in place and tack it in place with a few more finish nails.
Step 5 – Add the roof
You’ll be screwing, but not gluing the roof on the box. This is so you can remove the top and clean the box out every so often.
For the Flat Roof version
Align the front and back of your roof piece on the box. Then, using a tape measure, slide the roof over until you have a 1¾-in. overhang on both sides.
Using your wood screws, screw the roof to the top of the box.
For the Peaked Roof version
Align the shorter roof piece (the 5½-in. piece) with the top of the roof peak. Screw one wood screw into both sides to hold it in place.
Now take the longer roof piece and align the long edge (the 6” one) of the board so it overlaps the shorter roof piece you just attached to the top (see the illustration).
Use your other two screws to attach this half of the roof.
Step 6 – Decorate (if you want to)
You can leave the wood unfinished and let it weather naturally, or, if you’re so inclined, paint the outside. Either way, leave the inside unfinished.
My wife felt it was too bland as bare wood, so I made the roof barn red and painted the rest a murky sage green to match our house trim.
When she felt it was still too bland,she gave me a metal butterfly ornament she picked up at the dollar store and had me attach it to the front (you know, so the butterflies would know the house is for them).
Step 7 – Mount
You can mount the butterfly house on a pole or beam. It just needs to be at least 4 feet off the ground. A shady or lightly covered area with water and/or a food source nearby is preferable, as those will draw the butterflies and make the house more likely to be found.
I mounted mine using an “L” bracket and a zip tie on a pole that’s surrounded by a small guava and overlooks a portion of the butterfly and tropical gardens.
Is it working?
In the week that it’s been up, I’ve seen a couple of butterflies near it (a morning cloak today!), but so far, no takers on the free housing — at least as far as I can tell.
No worries, there’s a whole summer and an autumn still ahead, so I think the chances are good that we’ll get residents of one sort or another before winter arrives.