It’s always great when we can make learning fun and natural and when we can interweave it into our everyday lives, and this project is a great example of that!
Important note: If you don’t have ladybugs in your yard, you’ll want to order some. (Yes! You can order ladybugs from Amazon!) You may need to plan ahead and order your ladybugs so they’ll be ready once you’ve built your ladybug house. Or, like we did, you can build your ladybug house and then do a unit study on ladybugs for a few days until your ladybugs arrive.
Ladybugs and Organic Gardening
I love to involve my kids in the garden as much as possible. Even though it’s not very big, they love to go on little walk abouts in the garden – checking on plant growth, looking for pests, and harvesting veggies! A request I often hear is “Mama, let’s go check on the garden.”
One thing we often talk about is bugs. Good bugs and bad bugs. They’ve learned which bugs are good and which are bad, and their favorite good bugs are ladybugs. (To learn more about which bugs are good and which are bad, take a look at this article.)
Ladybugs are a type of beetle, and they eat all sorts of nasty pests in the garden – like aphids, scales, and mites. So we all get very excited when we see ladybugs in the garden! They are nature’s pest control, and they are great at it.
Inviting Ladybugs to Stay
With my children’s natural fascination with ladybugs, I thought it would be fun for us to build a ladybug house and order some ladybugs to release in the garden. (These are the ones I bought.) You need to be careful when releasing them, though. You should release them at dawn or dusk. And if you want them to stay in your garden, you should build them a house. And, most importantly – wait to order your ladybugs until you see some pests for them to eat. If they have no natural food source, they will just leave.
Building a Ladybug House
Handymen around the world will cringe at my building techniques. (My husband literally couldn’t watch! Haha!) But the goal here was simplicity! And this is simple and easy. Oh! And cheap too. But if you want to, you can easily replace my hot glue gun technique with wood glue and some clamps.
one 1″X4″ board cut into the following lengths:
- 2 pieces will need to be cut to 8″ long each
- 1 piece will need to be cut to 7 1/4″ long
- 2 pieces will need to be cut to 5″ long each
- IMPORTANT NOTE about boards: For those of us who are not carpenters, it’s important to know that a 1″ X 4″ board is actually (if you measure it) not exactly 1 inch by 4 inches. It’s actually 3/4″ X 3 1/2″. So if you ask for a 1X4 board at the hardware store and it’s not exactly that size when you measure it, no worries! As long as you cut your 1X4 board to the lengths I’ve specified, these instructions will work for you.
two or three pieces of bamboo (each several feet long)
- You’ll need to cut the bamboo pieces into lengths of 2″, 2 1/2″, and 3″
- NOTE about bamboo: You’ll need to use real bamboo–not the plastic stuff that’s sometimes used for crafts. Also, I used bamboo that is about 1/2″ up to 3/4″ in diamater or a little larger.
a handful of 2″ finishing nails
hot glue gun (with glue sticks)
ladybugs (either from your yard or from Amazon)
twine for hanging (optional)
- Step 1: Gather your supplies.
- Step 2: Using your hot glue gun, glue the 8″ long pieces to the 7 1/4″ piece as shown in the photo below. Make sure the boards are lined up flush on top. (This means that the middle board on the bottom (which will eventually be the back of the ladybug house) will be shorter than the boards on the two sides. See the second and third pictures below.)
- Step 3: Now, glue the 5″ long pieces to the ends of your “box.” Look at the photos below to see how to place the end pieces before you glue them. Notice that, on one end, you’ll place the 5″ piece in the “cut-out” space. On the other end (See the second photo below.), the 5″ piece will sit on top of the board that’s on the bottom (that will eventually be the back of the ladybug house). By gluing these pieces this way, you’ll end up (See the third photo below.) with a longer overhang on the top and a shorter “step” on the bottom. It makes it look more like a cute little front porch!
- If you want to use the finishing nails to give your ladybug house a little added durability, now’s the time to do that.
- Step 4: Now all you have to do is glue in the pieces of bamboo!
Once you get all the bamboo pieces glued in place, you’re done! If you want to paint your ladybug house, you can do that now (or you can paint the pieces before you put the ladybug house together), but we thought ours was beautiful just like it is, so we left it with a more natural look.
If you want to glue a twine loop onto the back of your ladybug house for easy hanging, you can do that. We have a tree with a branch that’s low enough for us to reach, so we plan to perch our ladybug house there instead. We’ll nail in place once we get it just where we want it.
- Step 5: Now you can either wait for the ladybugs in your yard to find their lovely new home, or you can release the ladybugs you ordered into their new home. PLEASE NOTE that, if you ordered ladybugs, you need to release them into their home at dusk. (All you have to do is open the little bag they came in and let them out right on top of the bamboo. They should go right in!)
If you want to have more ladybug fun, read a few books!
I decided to make this an informal unit study, so we went to the library and borrowed a bunch of books on ladybugs to read throughout the week while waiting for the ladybugs to arrive. Here are some of our favorites:
Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons : This had great information on the ladybugs life cycle, anatomy, and their impact in gardens. My kids loved it!
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle: Don’t leave out the little ones! If you have toddlers and preschoolers, this one is always fun. And it does show ladybugs eating aphids in the garden.
The Ladybug and Other Insects A First Discovery Book: This one we didn’t use, as I didn’t find it in our library, but it looks like it would be a great one for the older kids in the family! Especially if you have an insect lover.