Roots 'n' Shoots: House Wasp: DIY Beneficial Insect Homes

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Saturday, 16 November 2013

House Wasp: DIY Beneficial Insect Homes

When we moved the garden outside at the back of the kitchen, I had made a couple of insects’ homes. I tried different types of designs I found on the internet. Most of them went un-inhabited, except for two:

Commercial Bug House

Exhibition A: The Log Pile

The log pile was meant for carpenter and mason bees, but I mostly saw very large ants staying in the holes drilled into the logs. There were some centipedes and earthworms at the bottom of the pile. I did find some mud houses that may have belonged to the mason bees, but I cannot be sure. At least the log pile does bring in some garden helpers.

The Log Pile

Insect mud house

Exhibition B: House Wasp

I read about bumble bees being very efficient pollinators – more than your usual honey bee. This design was meant to attract and house them close to my garden. For two years it remained vacant, but during the summer months of 2013 (Jan-Mar), some of the smaller paper wasps have taken up residence.

Someone, who shall not be mentioned, moved the box and placed the entrance against the wall – I moved the box back and found that my previous carton roll entrance had been eaten by the rain. I fixed this with a new toilet paper roll wrapped in plastic – but for this I had to lift the lid… and was surprised to find a humongous paper wasp nest – a good two tennis ball sizes! I quickly repaired the box and left the now-angry wasp alone. I put up some warning signs; should unmentionable persons want to move it again.

House Wasp

Paper wasps are great predators to have around the garden, rounding up caterpillars to feed to their young. The adults like to pollinate aggregate fruit flowers (such as raspberries, blue berries and strawberries) and they also like to visit the marjoram flowers.

Seeing as this insect house was successful, I thought to make another and share the design with you:

Job requirements:

1 Person & less than 30 minutes

Polystyrene ice box (get @ plastic shop)
Screw driver
Piece of frost fleece or old sieve curtain
14 tooth picks
6 screws
Packet of wood shavings
Piece of plastic/small plastic bag
Toilet roll carton


  1. Cut a hole into the front of the polystyrene ice box to fit in the toilet roll carton.
  2. Wrap the toilet roll carton in the plastic bag with a little plastic overhang on the outside to ward off rain.
  3. Stuff the toilet roll carton into the front hole.
  4. Fill the box with wood/pet shavings. 
  5. Cut the frost fleece to size and secure with the screws (Do not tighten too much – else you’ll strip the polystyrene!). 

  6. Stick the toothpicks about half-way into the polystyrene around the top of the fleece.
  7. Put the lid on and pin into the toothpicks – leave a little bit of room at the lid for some airflow. 
  8. Tie off with twine to prevent the lid from coming off during heavy winds. 
  9. Cut a V into the bottom of the plastic overhang to prevent the plastic from warping and blocking the entrance. 
  10. Place in a shady, rain-protected spot, such as under a table/tree.
  11. The box can be placed on some bricks in case of flooding.
  12. (Optional) Secure a water and fade-proof warning sign onto the box.
  13. Wait one-two seasons for inhabitants.

You will likely forget about the house, as I did, and be delighted to see the inhabitants buzzing in and out on garden duty. I am also looking into establishing as insectary in my garden and will have a full post on that next month!
Paper wasp nest
Polistes fastidiotus

Have you tried insect homes? Do you have a winning design?


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  1. Hi. This is awesome idea. Been thinking on how to get some more wasps into the garden to help with the ever present whiteflys! Hate them, hahaha. I have also been thinking on trying to build a bee home, have you tried?

  2. Hey hey - yes we wanted to get a beehive and put it in the veld next to our house, but it is a big pain because (1) you need a permit (2) an approved bee hive and (3) fulfill all beekeeping bylaws. If I remember correctly you can only get an approved beehive from the Southerns Beekeeping Association of South Africa and they'll only sell equipment and provide training to members.

    Membership is around R240-R350 a year and then you add the cost of all the bee housing/facilities, equipment and training - then it becomes a lot more money than what I am willing to spend on having a beehive for pollination (I don't really want to harvest honey, just bolster the honeybee population in our garden). But if you are willing to go through the fuss for a beehive you can check out the Southern Beekeeping Association
    and I have a pdf link for the bylaws of Johannesburg, Beekeeping is under section 145 page 71

    Hope this helps - I also did a post on constructing an Insectary (see Index and Info Page under 'Other articles') that will bring in a few more troopers to sort out the whiteflies (no membership to any association required and no pesky bylaws either).

  3. Oh ok did not know all that! Interesting but like you said I do not think I will spend that much money for pollination. I was thinking more on the lines of something like this,
    It basically a small container with lots of thin tubes in packed clsoe together. Not sure if in Highveld we get bees that would stay in the home but thought it worth the try. Think this weekend will set one up and see if get anything soon. keep you updated.

    I did read the post on the insectary, very intersting and no memebership, what a bargain :). I need to do something like that too. Lately I have been focusing on replacing existing alien plants with indigenous plants to try and attract a broader bird, insect and butterfly population to my yard. However I hardly see any difference so far (thou maybe it is because I am at work during most of the day). I remember when I was young boy there were loads more butterfly's, bees and such. It sad that they seem to be so rare these days.

  4. Sadly, urbanisation leads to massive habitat loss where large areas of bushveld full of flowers are replaced by non-flowering lawn and dead paving - which means that it is up to concerned gardeners to convert their plots into animal-friendly habitat and this is fortunately a trend that is steadily on the rise, so hopefully with joint effort we can get back our wildlife and enjoy them in our gardens.

    I have noticed that the insect population in the garden is very dynamic and changes according to the garden's needs each season, for instance, in 2011 we had a few female praying mantids that laid eggs in the veg patch. They are absolutely wonderful as pest control and kept most of the bugs at bay that year. Last year, no mantids, and I had an explosion of caterpillars on the tomatoes because I planted them very densely - luckily wasps came swarming in after all the juicy caterpillars and quickly sorted them out. This year I didn't plant the tomatoes so dense and I also planted them on different plots - but now I have a massive aphid problem. I haven't really felt like dealing with it, yet after a few weeks I had troops of ladybug adults & larvae and hoverfly larvae (known as rat-tails because they look so nasty) savaging the aphids.

    On the side of pollinators, it takes time for the insect populations to increase with the increase in new food supplies, so next year (season) you should see a dramatic increase in the pollinator numbers (butterflies and smaller bee species) and each year after that they should increase as well until they reach an equilibrium with the food supply again. Also butterfly numbers are depended on the caterpillar food source or host plants - we don't really have butterflies or moths (except for the tomato semi-loopers) in the garden... This year I had hawk-moths in the garden after my grapevine, which they can completely devastate overnight, so butterflies are a bit debatable in terms of their beneficial nature seeing as their larvae cause such havoc. Hence why I opt more for bees and flies as pollinators than butterflies.

    So I don't think that a garden will always have all types of insects at high numbers all the time, rather it changes each seasons and in to relation to your system of pest control/plants in the garden. Please keep me updated on your efforts for beneficial insect bolstering and between all the experimentation we are bound to find something that works a charm!

  5. Thank you Shroom, I had a wonderful time watching a wasp build a mud hut on my Djembi cover on a shelf above my bed A bit freaky knowing that some caterpillar was being consumed, but was a pleasure watching the busy Mama. When I moved, there hadn't been any activity and on closer inspection the HUT was empty.


I appreciate any ideas & input! Sharing is caring :) ... Any questions are welcome too!

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