Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Hole In My Head

I've been thinking about building a insect hotel for a couple of years now, all part of my quest to bring beneficial insects into the great St Augustine desert that is my neighborhood.  When I saw a picture of hôtels à abeilles I was even more determined to build one.

And then my trees started to die.  I had two Arizona Ash trees in my front yard and one of them was beginning to die - the one closest to the house, of course.  I had an arborist come out to take a look at it, and while it would probably take about three years to completely die, having that monster next to my house was worrisome.  Of course the problem was that if one tree came down, the other one would need to go also.  The canopies were interwoven and the remaining tree would be completely lopsided - posting yet another hazard.  So I made the decision to cut them down and plant new trees.

Now I'm not saying that I cut down my trees in order to have material for my bug hotel.  But I was delighted at the prospect that I wouldn't have to scrounge too far to find wood.

Be careful what you wish for.

I had the tree removal crew leave me some nice big branches and while supervising their work I also gathered up smaller twigs that I could use.  The first thing I had to do was cut the branches into 5.5" width rounds - that way they would fit into the shelving I was using for the framework.
I thought I'd just plop them on the table saw and square them up. Did I mention they were ash?  One of those really hard woods?  It took several passes and with ear splitting torque just for one end.  I made the rest of the cuts with the sawzall.  Took for frickin' ever.

Next up was to drill holes in all the pieces.  Since my drill bit was shorter than 5.5", I got to drill on both sides!  Oh, how I longed for my Dad's drill press.  It took me three days to finish the job.  And did I mention that the tree was ash?  What was I thinking?  Every hole was a huge effort because the wood was so hard - and green to boot.

Of course the idea for these pieces is to provide shelter for ladybugs, wasps, and possibly bees.  Most bees in Texas are ground dwellers and won't be too interested in these wooden homes.

If nothing else they are cool looking.

Did I mention they were ash?  I think I got carpal tunnel drilling those holes.  Not the smartest thing I've ever done, but hopefully worth it.


  1. But where is the picture of the finished product?? 'cause I've had my sneak peak and it is gorgeous!!

    1. Patience Bonnie. I'm writing in installments - more exciting that way!

  2. We had to have our Arizona Ash cut down a few years ago because the Carpenter Ants had started using it for a home. And when you have a giant crack around the bottom of the tree, it's probably better to remove it than to deal with the aftermath.

    Anyhoo! We didn't pay for stump grinding because Shawn figured he would just drill some holes in it to get it to decompose quicker. He could only get maybe an inch or two into the stump because ASH! So yeah, we ended up building a potato box on top of the stump instead. hopefully it's decomposing nicely at the bottom of that thing...

    1. I piled dirt on top of my stumps hoping to hurry things along. But I know I'm just kidding myself.