Without insects, the world would be in a bit of a predicament. They take care of all sorts of natural processes, from pollination through to decomposition and are some of the hardest workers in the natural world. But they do need our help. Loss of natural habitats is a major problem, with causes including intensive farming and destruction of hedgerows. Building a beetle hotel goes a little way to helping these vital creatures survive and continue breeding.
While beetle hotels are appreciated by many species of crawling insect, they’re also an excellent place for solitary bees to rest their wings. Protection of this species is critical; with studies suggesting that 90% of the world’s food comes from 100 types of crops, 71 of which are pollinated by bees. Though you might not see what they’re up to, bees carry a massive weight of responsibility.
Such insect life is all part of the biodiversity that’s critical to life on earth. As they do so much work to help us out, it’s only fair we try to boost biodiversity and protect insects and other wildlife. And building a bug hotel is also a great way to get children interested in the natural world, encouraging them to be outdoors and inspiring creativity. Plus, if you build an especially pretty one, your bug hotel can make an attractive natural decoration for your garden.
There are really no rules when it comes to bug-hotel construction. You can get creative and use a range of different natural or recycled materials, making a structure as simple or fancy as you like.
To build your bug hotel, you can use:
Recyclables such as…
- Wooden pallets to create a structure
- Broken tiles and bricks
- Corrugated cardboard
- Recycled plastic bottles
- Stone chippings
Natural materials such as…
- Logs, twigs and rotting wood
- Dry leaves
- Bamboo canes
- Hollow plant stems
- Straw or hay
- Wool insulation from your meat box
Constructing a bug hotel
-Firstly, choose a location suitable for insects. They like cool moist areas, so a shady place next to a hedge would be perfect.
-Then create a stable structure by placing three or four wooden pallets on top of each other. Make it safe with string or pull ties to ensure the pallets aren’t going to tumble. You can improvise with other materials if you don't have pallets.
-When your structure’s built, use varied materials to create insect habitats and attract an array of different wildlife. You can try:
- Using a couple of drainpipes packed with hollow bamboo sticks (a little bit of hay stuffed in will stop the canes sliding out). Lay the pipes horizontally in the middle of the pallets throughout the hotel. Hay and straw make a good place for insects to hibernate and burrow. Hollow canes are attractive homes for the solitary bees that pollinate plants and flowers in your garden.
- Rolling corrugated cardboard into different sizes and stacking the rolls up. These tubes make little spirals where insects can scurry and hide. Putting rolled cardboard into a plastic bottle attracts lacewings, which are excellent pest controllers in the garden.
- Arranging dead wood to attract a range of different beetles, including majestic and wood-burrowing beetles. Placing dry logs in among other materials will also allow woodlice and centipedes to find dark places for burrowing. Woodlice and millipedes are brilliant composters, breaking down dead plant materials for us.
- Stacking bricks and tiles at the bottom level of the stacked pallets to make a cool and moist spot. This makes an attractive residence for frogs.
- Adding dry leaves to your bug hotel helps to attract ladybirds. They love to eat the aphids that feed on plant sap, causing considerable damage to crops.
Keep an eye out and see who comes to stay!