One Design Modified For Three Different Urban Animals – Birds, Bugs, and Bats
I’ve been wanting to attract more urban animals to my backyard and was researching different ways to go about it. Besides being a joy to watch, urban animals provide important ecological functions such as pest control and pollination.
Birdhouses seemed like an obvious place to start. A little research led me to an article on NestWatch.org called “Features of a Good Birdhouse“. By the way, NestWatch’s website is amazing and has a fantastic search option which tells you how to attract specific species by making adjustments – like entrance size – to the birdhouse design. I wasn’t far into building birdhouses when I realised that I could modify the design to include two other urban animals – bugs and bats.
Three Animals, One Design
Back to researching – I pulled up various articles on native bee hotels, ladybug boxes, and bat houses I sat down with SketchUp and played with the original birdhouse design. You might be asking – why build one design for three different animals anyway? Here’s my train of thought:
- Aesthetics – I plan on installing a few urban animal houses along my espalier fences. For visual consistency, I like the idea of each box referencing a common shape and style – they look like they belong together.
- Function – The birdhouse features provided by NestWatch consists of design elements that each urban animal would benefit from – ventilation, sloped roof, and gutters to shed the rain.
- Convenience & Economics – All three designs are similar so they’re easy to build – modifying the same plan three times means that many of the pieces are the same. Since I’m in the woodshop anyway, why not come out with three animal houses instead of one? Since they’re built from the same material (1×8 lumber) I only need to make one trip to the store and there’s very little scrap lumber left on the woodshop floor.
Bug Hotel Modification
A typical bug hotel consists of a block of wood with holes drilled in it or a series of tubes that provide living space for various beneficial insects. The two beneficial bug I’m after are ladybugs and native solitary bees.
Ladybugs are great to have in the garden as they’re ferocious consumers of pests such as aphids. Each fall, ladybugs crawl into piles of wood, mulch, and small cracks and crevices (often in the side of your house) and lay dormant. The Bug Hotel design provides a variety of small places for these beneficial animals.
Native Bee Habitat
Though honeybees aren’t native to North America hundreds of other species are. Unlike honeybees, many native species are solitary and build their homes in small holes. Species such as mason bees fill holes with a series of eggs and pollen. Each winter, the mother bee dies but her offspring emerge the following spring and consume the pollen she left them.
Solitary bee species are stingless, better pollinators than honeybees (if we’re comparing bee to bee and not “hive” to hive), and have symbiotic relationships with native plants.
To modify the original birdhouse design, I’ve removed the front entrance hole and both sides of the house. For support, a diagonal brace is added to keep the house square. I then cut 4-inch lengths of various sized bamboo for actual bee and ladybug habitat. I could have been particular with the size of holes but instead when for a shotgun approach hoping to attract a variety of native bee species.
Bat House Modification
The bat house required the most modifications as bats require a been roosting space away from the wind and other elements. This involved stretching the birdhouse, moving the bottom, and inserting a central column for roosting and access. The central column and inside of the hive are textured so that bats may climb it. Entrance gaps of 3/4 to 1 inch are used to accommodate my local bat species.
If you’ve seen bat houses before you’ve probably seen flat structures with a long bottom entrance. This modified birdhouse design is essentially the same but folded in on two sides – the result is a more compact bat house around a central roost. Bat boxes with multiple roots provide different internal environments for the bats to occupy. This design is sometimes referred to as a rocket-box bat house.
Purchase All Three Animal Houses – Bird, Bug, and Bat
Birdhouse, Bug Hotel, and Bat Boxes are fabricated after orders are placed and are available to pickup in Edmonton.