Introduction: Butterfly Garden Boxes

About: I like to make things.

We've been talking about doing this butterfly for years. This is my wife's vision, I just built it! With the pandemic lock down, and with so many people now walking around, we thought now was the time to do it. A little positive fun display for the neighborhood!


Planter blocks

Treated Lumber

Wood Stain

White Paint

Lots of dirt

Plant labels

Sprinklers (1/2 tubing, sprinkler heads, sprinkler riser kit)

1/2" wood sheet

Glue, nails, screws

Small hinges and hasps

Butterfly and bee attracting plants:


Sweet Broom



Step 1: Raised Garden Bed

The first step was to get out all the weeds we don't want that had been growing around our tree, and build a raised garden bed.

These are simple to build. You just need the bricks and 2 x 6 boards cut to the right length. Use treated boards otherwise they will deteriorate quickly. We stacked just two levels high.

We used a combination of 8 and 10 foot boards for efficiency. Our area was 14 x 6 feet. This left us with some scrap pieces that we ended up using as posts for the boxes. You will have to measure for your area. Do not forget that the bricks add to the length so you will have to account for those.

Once you have your boards cut to size, it's easy to slot them together with the bricks. We had one difficulty, which was that the root of the tree was sticking up on one side. Not wanting to harm the tree, I simply cut away some of the board. I figure this adds some more character to the raised bed!

Then fill it with your favorite potting soil!

Step 2: Build the Display Boxes

I used some existing scrap 1/2" waferboard to make the boxes. They were 12" x 12" x 6" each, and I made two of them. These are pretty straight forward to build. The front and back are 11" square, so the sides are 6 x 11. The two sides added to the 11" square makes 12" (slightly less, though, because 1/2 wood is usually not quite 1/2 inch..). Then the top and bottom are 6" x 12", to completely cover the top. Less chance of water getting in!

The windows are plastic sheet that I got from an old neighbor who used to do x-ray machine repair, so these are actually x-ray photo plastic with protective blue film. But you can use anything. We try to recycle as much as we can, and so we have a stack of this plastic that we've used for various things including making placemats for the dinner table.

I used gorilla glue to attach them, as it foams up to fill the spaces.

I cut a door on the sides so we can place food into the boxes while the caterpillars are growing. A small hinge and hasp keeps it closed. Also hinges and a hasp on the top lid to keep it closed. In order to prevent the little caterpillars from escaping, I used some small wood scraps to line the cracks in the door.

To cut out the door and the window, drill holes in the corner big enough to get the blade of a hand saw into, and then cut out.

Sand all the burrs off all the edges and assemble. I used Elmers glue on all edges and secured with small nails and clamps as needed. Once assembled, I sanded all the surfaces and edges smooth.

I painted the inside with interior white paint, and I stained the outside with a nice blue stain I used to restore a bench with. This is why we keep left over paint and stain from other projects!

Step 3: Add Plants and Sprinklers

You want to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects like bees, so you need plants. Now, we're going to order the caterpillar larvae and put them in the boxes with food, but, we also want to get wild insects as well. We already have a lot of butterflies in the area.

Here are the plants we put in:




Sweet Broom

We got these from a local store, except the milkweed which we ordered online and it came to us as only a root, which is why you don't actually see it in the pictures.

The signs are really cute, slate rock and reusable.

Because we already had pop up sprinklers, I replaced the one that was in the raised garden area with a 1/2" tee and popup sprinkler replacement. Then I snaked the 1/2" tubing around the tree and plants, and placing several sprinkler heads along the way.

Step 4: Add Caterpillars

We ordered the caterpillars online after we put everything together. They came with food, and for later, nectar to feed the butterflies.

We put them in through the top, and slid the food in from the side just as planned. It worked well and the caterpillars are doing well.

Step 5: Observe the Caterpillars

They have cocooned! It's a bit hard to see them. Next time, I will put something in below the lid so that when they cocoon they will be lower and more easy to spot.

We added some signs to let passers by know where to look.

So far we've had lots of people in the neighborhood stop by for a look.

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