Tri Nguyen

“Insects, worms and other small animals that carry out vital functions for life on earth have declined by 45 per cent on average over 35 years, threatening human health, water quality and food supplies…” 

-Steve Connor, “Vital invertebrates decline by 45 per cent, study finds,”, July 2014.

Before this project, I did not know about this ongoing issue regarding insects. I knew about the decline of a lot of species, but never paid much attention to an important section in our ecosystem, insects. It was mentioned that insects have been declining at about a rate of 45%. This was eye opening for me, and a representative from the Wisconsin DNR helped to amplify this. After he talked to our class about this issue and various insects, I decided to pursue constructing a butterfly home.

After conducting research on butterfly shelters, I learned that a vast majority of them look very similar. They all had a slanted roof and resembled a birdhouse. This made me want to create something unique while also maintaining functionality. Through research, I also learned that butterflies need specific sized slots. To be exact, they need a slot that is a half inch wide by three and a quarter inch tall. The shelter should also be roughly four feet off of the ground and preferably near flowers. In regards to the interior of the butterfly home, there should be tree bark and small tree limbs. The tree bark provides the butterfly with something to cling on. The tree limbs provide them something to perch on. The shelter should also include a removable bottom and top, for easier dumping and replacement of materials. While learning about what is necessary for a butterfly shelter, it was also important to learn about the insect itself.

In our ecosystem, butterflies play the important role of a pollinator. That being said, I felt it was important to not only learn about them, but also their actions and habits. Through research I learned that they like sheltered places like crevices, especially when it’s cold, at night, and when they want to hibernate. That being said I also learned that they are only active during the day. As I said earlier, there are special butterfly slots when constructing a shelter for them. I wanted to know why. I learned that these slots are made due to their sensitive wings. The slots also function as protection from weather and wind, while also keeping birds and potential predators out.

The amount of materials used in the construction of this project was small. To be exact, I used the supplied lumber (ash wood), plywood, wood glue, 1 ½ inch brass hinges, sandpaper, and boiled linseed oil. I used the ash wood to construct the main structure of my butterfly homes. This was since the properties of the wood coming from ash trees are known to be sturdy and durable. This strength and durability will allow for a more secure shelter, protecting the butterflies from weather, wind, and potential predators. The plywood was used for a more lightweight lid to my project and was attached to the main frame with the 1 ½ inch brass hinges. I also used 60 grit sandpaper to give my project a more smooth surface and to remove remnant wood glue. Sanding my structures also allowed for the linseed oil to more easily settle into the grains of the wood. Lastly, I used the boiled linseed oil as a natural stain and finish. It provides a beautiful finish, bringing out the rings and striations of the ash wood, while also protecting my project and the insects inside from rain and water.

This project should be mounted at roughly four feet tall around the top of a wooden pole. To do so, it should simply be screwed into the pole from the inside of the structure. The three butterfly homes that I constructed should be arranged so that the back side of each individual lid come together to form a triangle. After being mounted, each individual butterfly motel should be filled with various twigs and leaves in order for a more proper butterfly nesting habitat.

References for a better understanding of the construction of a butterfly shelter:

In regards to annual maintenance, simply open the lid of each structure and empty out the contents. Then refill it with fresher twigs and leaves. Each butterfly motel should also be re-

For this final project, we were to follow several main objectives. First, we were to learn and show proficiency in working with the woodshop and within it. We also had to display an understanding of going through the proper steps of going from idea to product. Google SketchUp was an integral part of this process and we were to successfully explore and use it. The final form must show an awareness of good design and craft while also being a permanent home and secure place for insects throughout the state of Wisconsin. This project will be publicly displayed in various State Trails and parks throughout Wisconsin.

Going into this project, we were first visited by a representative of the Wisconsin DNR. There, we discussed the ongoing issue of insect declination, various ways of pursuing an insect motel, and the many insects that we could build them for. At that point we were asked to pursue a design specified for an insect of choice, then conduct research on it. I chose to pursue a butterfly motel. After researching what it took to construct a butterfly motel, I then began making preparatory drawings of the overall form that I wanted for my project. I did this through pen and paper while also utilizing Google SketchUp. I specifically wanted to make a butterfly motel that was unique while also maintaining functionality. I wanted to stay away from an ordinary butterfly motel, which resembled a basic birdhouse. So I pursued a ten sided butterfly motel, and to go even further I chose to make three of them. This was to embody the idea of working in the round and how that affects the overall form of a piece. From there, I constructed a cardboard mockup of my idea. After all of these preparatory steps, we entered the wood shop and began constructing our final wood forms.

After finishing my piece and reflecting back on the whole process, I would say that I have learned from it. I learned how important it is to plan things out and how it can assist you in the end. Doing so can save a lot of time and will allow for a more efficient process. That being said, I learned that time is a very important factor when it comes to constructing anything. I feel that my final form shows this. Without all of the time that I put into it, it would not be as clean and flush as I intended it to be. Especially since this project was constructed out of wood. Wood can be very unforgiving if you don’t respect it and put time into working with it, and it shows. That being said, I plan to take what I’ve learned from this project and apply to my future works. Overall, I am excited to see my piece being installed into the public and am happy that it will serve as a tool to educate anyone who comes across it.

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