Milk Carton Beneficial Insect Hotels


  • Hollow plant stems from plants like Lovage or Milkweed (look for others!)
  • Milk or creamer cartons
  • Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, or other thin wood
  • Tools
    • Pruning shears or other heavy duty cutting tools
    • Box cutter, utility knife or cutting pliers
    • Hot glue gun
    • Awl, nail, screw-hook, or outdoor-quality glue* (see note)
  • Adult supervision & creative kids
  • Electricity
  • Sturdy surface such as a fence, side of house, or post


  • Child education
  • Community outreach as an event activity add-on
  • Beneficial insect habitat
  • Decoration, novelty
  • Barter item, sale income
  • Less dependence on external pest controls
  • Waste diversion – hollow stems, milk cartons, used popsicle sticks
  • Opportunity to honor another part of the ecosystem


  1. Begin by cutting open the carton with the utility knife 1/2 to 1/2 inch from the side edges. I find it helps to finish each corner cut until the very end of this step so the carton does not lose structural integrity, making the process harder. You should now have a hole in your carton.
  2. Wash out any remnants of a previous life from the carton and wipe it dry.
  3. Measure and cut the hollow stems until they just fit inside the carton. Try to make cuts close to any indications of segmented walls within the hollow stems.
Hollow stems are important!
  1. Stuff the carton full of the cut stems, adding in straw if needed to keep it all tightly packed. Warm up your hot glue gun.
  2. Trim the popsicle sticks with the cutting pliers to the size of small shingles and glue them to the top and sides of your carton, creating a roof and decorations.
  3. *Use an awl or a nail to punch a hole through the top ridge flap of the carton and tie a string through it. Then secure the screw-hook to a sturdy surface and hang the bug hotel at least 3 1/2 feet up from the ground. The bug hotel should not swing in the wind. Alternatively, use outdoor-quality glue to secure the bug hotel to a piece of wood which then gets mounted to the sturdy surface as needed at the same height from before.
  4. Enjoy seeing your hotel fill up with grateful beneficial insects in fall then watch them emerge in the spring, bringing ecological diversity and pest reduction as the season grows.

Additional Resources

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