An Insect Hotel as a Utility Box Cover. Part 1 - Design & Construction

A friend of ours is restoring a 300 year-old stone-built longère or long house. The electricity company brought power to the property but sited the ubiquitous supply box right in front of the house. Not surprisingly, she is unhappy with the incongruous nature of such a utilitarian container and asked me to come up with something to disguise the box..

Insect hotel for camouflaging an eyesore
It was Sue who came up with the idea of constructing an insect hotel to hide it. She thought that just covering the box with a wooden or stone structure would look incongruous growing out of the front lawn near the flower beds but siting a bug house there would be ideal. I think it is a concept that could be used to encourage insects and camouflage an eyesore, wherever and when ever one may occur.

To give the design a very personal touch, we took an old and very beautiful section of dead tree branch from the property to use in the box. We also collected a variety of cones from the nearby pine forest that skirts the sea shore.

Insect house detail



Apart from the aesthetics, the very practical reason to cover this utility box was because such installations have a propensity to become car 'magnets'. Sited as they often are at the front of houses and unexpectedly mushrooming up from nowhere, they are habitually backed into by drivers. So the design was made imposing enough to be visible and out of any 'blind spot'.

I decided to make the hotel/cover in two parts: the box (including the insect hotel proper) and the roof. Our friend had some roofing slates left over from last year's major works and I thought it appropriate to have a pitched slate roof  protecting the insect hotel. This would then match the house and add to the harmony of the design within its surroundings aka the genius loci. The accommodation for the insects was to be on one side only, that is the southern elevation. Two doors on the western and east elevation would permit access to the electrical boxes when required.

Insect house project

Finally, the whole was to be held in place by using steel anchors at the four corners embedded in concrete. The ‘free’ ends of the anchors were to fit into pre-drilled holes in the corner posts. The use of these anchors had a further advantage, that is the wooden corner-posts could be held clear of the ground without compromising the stabilty of the hotel, thus limiting the contact with damp during the Winter months. Concrete is not normally a material I use but as it was available here, leftover from another job and as I would be using so little, I opted to use it.



pallet wood posts for insect hotel

After measuring the minimum interior size needed for the enclosure, I first cut the four wooden corner posts from some 35mm thick pallet wood. 

rebar anchors for bug house 

The anchors were made of rebar welded into a cross, the end going into the corner post needed to be round in section so I welded a length of 12mm diameter mild steel bar  to this. They bore an uncanny resemblance to the turn-of-the-century funeral crosses you see on nuns' graves around this area. Albeit a little less ornate.


drilling posts for insect house

In order to ensure the 12mm hole was drilled centrally up the corner post, I used a small drill press and clamped it to the workbench such that the 12mm bit was over the edge of the bench. I positioned the corner post, and clamped it to the workbench leg so that the centre of it was directly beneath the tip of the drill bit. The post had to be aligned with the vertical axis of the drill press. 

Insect hotel - cutting posts to length  

Once all four posts were drilled, they were cut to length.

Insect house in construction

For the hotel side of the cover, I made square cut-outs at the ends of the upper and lower pallet wood planks to fit the posts., the vertical side walls were nailed to the posts and also nailed into the end grain of the top and bottom planks.


Insect hotel box section

The stapling of 10mm thick tongue and groove panelling to the rear of the rectangular frame forming the walls of the hotel stiffened the entire structure.
Insect hotel under construction

The north wall was much simpler, with the posts nailed to two horizontal rails and with the wall planks nailed to these. The substantially longer nails were bent over on the inside of the wall and hammered flat.

Bug house North side
Insect house making North sidePrior to the fixing of the wall planks, two additional wooden planks were cut to fit the gap between the rails and were nailed to the posts.
  Insect house under construction

Two pallet planks were screwed to the upper faces of the north and south walls so as to form the other two sides of the structure. Narrower planks of the same length were screwed to the lower edges of the walls, thus forming the rectangular faces of the East and West aspect.

 Body of insect hotel box cover completeInsect hotel utility box cover - doors 

Doors were made to fit these faces and were attached.

In the next post, I  continue, with the construction of the roof and the fitting out and finishing of the Insect Hotel the link is here.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have enjoyed this post please share and feel free to comment, ask questions or relate your own experience of the de-uglification of utility boxes.

All the best from sunny Normandie, Andy 

© Andy Colley 2014


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