“Insects, worms and other small animals that carry out vital functions for life on earth have declined on average over 35 years, threatening human health, water quality, and food supplies…”
Steve Connor. “Vital invertebrates decline by 45 percent, study finds.” Independent.co.uk.July 2014
The project I created addresses the issue of providing a habitat for a few beneficial species of insects in Southeastern Wisconsin. I have not noticed the decline personally, but his project has heightened my awareness of the issue. I do have fond memories of growing up in Indiana and seeing an abundance of fireflies during warm summer nights. I moved to Florida for twelve years, where, I did not see them. Recently, I moved here to Wisconsin where they are abundant again. They just instantly make me revert to childhood memories.
For the habitat I created, I used cedar. I love working with cedar because it is lightweight, smells great, and has a rustic quality. One side of the wood even has a rough, unfinished appearance. The best thing about cedar, however is its durability. There will be no need to seal or finish it because cedar is a protective wood. It has evolved from damp, insect and fungus abundant areas. I created an octagonal shaped house. It has somewhat of a lantern appearance. Atop it is a cupola meant for housing butterflies. The lower level is encased with chicken wire. The back side is not encased to make it easy to remove the contents. I used closely packed sticks to attract lace wigs and ladybugs. Above that is firewood with holes drilled at 5/16″ for bees. Some of the holes are 6″ in depth while others are 2.5″ in depth. The reason for this is the leafcutter bees prefer the shallow holes, while mason bees prefer the deeper ones. Finally, I provided some thick grass to attract other various insects.
This piece should be very minimal maintenance. It is very accessible for cleaning and replacement. Inside the butterfly nest may be difficult however, there is not really much accessibility.
When I was assigned this project I was very excited. I love woodworking and have a lot of carpentry experience. However, as the project progressed, time management became more of a critical issue. Scale was the other issue. I began to build without properly assessing all the mathematics of the piece to find a final size. I did not give thought to doorway sizes or transportation.
However, I am happy with the size and appearance of the pieces. I love the aesthetic value of cedar. The piece was very difficult to construct given time restraints. There were a lot of issues encountered that I did not prepare for.
In the future, I would probably choose a simpler shape to construct. An octagon is time-consuming because everything is repeated eight times. There are a lot of angles and cuts to think about. If a number is off on one side versus another, it will be noticeable. There are some noticeable flaws to the piece concerning the angles. Over all, though, I would probably use the same materials and use a similar style of construction. I might scale it down a little.
Most importantly, it was nice to a project to benefit the greater good. In a world that seems distraught at times, it is nice to show appreciation for some of the smaller things that often go unnoticed. Insects serve an important role in human life. We are often too consumed with the big picture that we forget that we need to view the world in small pieces. There is a lot of beauty in the world, sometimes it just doesn’t get the exposure it deserves.