Archive for May, 2012

How-to: a DIY Bug Box

Well, it’s summer now, and for many of us that means bug season! There are few better ways to instill a love and respect of the natural world in your younglin’ than letting him or her collect bugs in summer. Here are instructions for a quick and easy Bug Box you can make yourself out of recycled materials.

What you’ll need for one box:
a board (I used pine.)
¼” luan plywood.
A machine screw and a nut to fit.
Some window screen/hardware cloth
Scraps of webbing

*Various saws—you can go modern and use a chopsaw, bandsaw, and a hole saw, or go traditional and do the whole thing with hand tools (takes longer, probably more rewarding). I used power tools, because I had a couple of these to crank out and not a lot of time.
*Small nails and a hammer, or a brad-gun
*A heavy-duty stapler/staple-gun
*A rasp/file
*wood stain or oil (optional)

To begin, take your board and measure out three sections, one for the base and two for the ends of your box. My finished box is 10” long, so I cut an 8 ½” section for the base. The two smaller sections will form the ends of the box; mine were 4” long. Use a chopsaw, circular saw, chainsaw, whatever.  My chopsaw had a coarse blade in it, so the cut edges were kind of splintery at this point. Clean them all up with a file and sandpaper.

I hate squares. There’s no shape more indicative of our culture’s obsession with controlling nature, so I make my bug boxes with rounded ends. It’s a bit more work, but I think it looks much more attractive.
So, to make your end-sections round on top, you’ll have to lay out a semicircle. Get creative here—I found that the diameter of a pint tub of sour cream was the same width as the board I was using. Find something round, and trace it onto both pieces.Cut off the excess on both sections, and then (depending on how closely you followed your line) hit it with your rasp/file/belt-sander so that it looks nice and smooth. Clean up the edges with sandpaper.
Rinse and repeat for the other short section.One end is going to need an opening so you can put the bugs inside. I used a drill press with a 2-¼” holesaw. When you lay it out, remember to go up from the bottom at least the thickness of the base. Cut out the hole somehow (this is probably the hardest part for those of you doing this with hand tools), and clean up the opening with sandpaper.
Once you have your opening, you’ll want a door to keep your critters inside the box. Find something round that’s maybe ½” wider in diameter than your door-hole (I used an aerosol can), and trace it onto your ¼” luan plywood. Add a ½” hump at the top, and cut it out, cleaning up the edges with your rasp/file/sandpaper.
Now it’s time to attach it to the box. Get the door lined up where it needs to go over the door-hole, and drill a small hole into the middle of the hump, going through the thick piece; this is where your hardware will go to let the door open and close.  Put a bolt or machine screw through the hole, and thread a nut on the back. I like to keep it a little loose so the door swings freely—but don’t worry, we’ll make sure the door isn’t too easy to open in a bit.
Now it’s time to assemble. My pine board wanted to split, so I went ahead and drilled some pilot holes. Slather some wood glue on the ends, and nail the rounded sections to the base with some small brads.
Here’s the point when you can—if you choose—add some wood stain or oil or something to dress up the wood.  Once you get that out of the way, time to add some screen to keep your bugs in! I used hardware cloth which is easily cut with tin-snips. The size of your screen is determined by the size of your box, so the only tricky part should be measuring the end pieces: a flexible measuring tape used for sewing works great. Add ½” on all sides, fold that under, and staple it onto the box starting from the long sides. Don’t put a staple at the top of the round pieces just yet.

At this point, you should have a perfectly satisfactory bug box. Congratulations! But it could probably still use some finishing touches, especially if you’re making it as a gift for a younglin’. First, something to keep the door closed. Here’s where your webbing comes into play. Cut a piece as wide as your board was, and staple it on either side so that it covers the bottom ¼” or so of the door.
Second, a young naturalist-in-training needs his hands free to swing his butterfly net or write in his notebook; naturally, what this box is missing is a shoulder strap. Cut a length of webbing a foot or two long, fold the ends under, and staple it onto the tops of the rounded end pieces (see the first picture).

Now, you have a very nice box perfect for filling with fireflies to make a lantern, or collecting grasshoppers for eating later in the summer, or just examining our six-legged brothers in the community of life. Enjoy!