I’m really looking forward to the better weather so that we can start work again on the pond and meadow. However, I have been thinking about how we could encourage more wildlife and visitor interest and wondered if a BUG HOTEL could provide an additional attraction. See what you think.
Might the creation of a Bug Hotel be a great project for a youth club or a group of like-minded folk? But everyone can help provide a safe over-winter home – see below (Smaller Bug Dwellings ? ).
Why do bugs need hotels?
In natural habitats there are endless nooks and crannies where mini-beasts, properly known as invertebrates, can shelter. Crevices in bark, holes in dead wood, piles of fallen leaves, gaps between rocks, hollow plant stems, spaces in dead logs – all these can provide a home for the myriad small creatures that need somewhere to nest or to escape from predators or bad weather. Established gardens can also provide lots of hiding places, but gardeners often like to tidy away the debris where invertebrates might live. Schools may feel pressure to keep their plots tidy and in a new garden, or one that consists of containers surrounded by hard surfaces, the amount of natural cover will be limited.
However giving Nature a helping hand by creating bug hotels, are often interesting and attractive creations in their own right. They also enable us to get close to all things creepy crawly (not that I like to be too close !).
The following video produced by Billow Farm provides a great example of a Bug Hotel and the enthusiasm of the “architects”, but I’m think the mouse may have been overwhelmed by the attention ! ￼￼￼￼
What makes a good bug hotel?
The best bug hotels have lots of small spaces in different shapes and sizes and made from different materials. Ideally some should be nice and dry inside, and others a bit dampish. Bug hotels are generally made from reclaimed materials, or natural objects, which reduces cost, helps them blend in with their surroundings and is probably more attractive to the mini-beast guests.
What might check in to your bug hotel?
A surprisingly wide variety of invertebrates including nesting mason bees and leaf cutter bees, woodlice hiding from the sun – and woodlice spiders hunting woodlice, earwigs hiding their babies from predators, ladybirds and lacewings hibernating over winter, beetle larvae feeding on the dead wood, funnel web spiders spinning their traps and centipedes hunting down their prey.
Where to site your habitat
Many invertebrates like cool damp conditions, so you can site your habitat in semi shade, by a hedge or under a tree. Putting the habitat close to other wildlife features, such as an overgrown hedge, a shrubbery or a pond will make it easier for small creatures to find it. Not all creatures like to be in the shade: solitary bees like a warm sunny spot, so put tubes for bees on the sunniest side of the habitat, or put them elsewhere in the garden. Choose a level, even surface: the hotel may end up fairly heavy, so will need a firm base.
The basic structure
Old pallets for the basic structure. The more you can use recycled or reclaimed materials the better. The habitat does not need to be more than 5 pallets high and can be all the same size. If you place the bottom pallet upside down, this should create larger openings at the ends, which can be used for a hedgehog house. Although the structure should be stable, you might want to secure each pallet to the one below.
Filling the gaps
There are many different ways to fill the gaps in the structure, here are some suggestions and details of who may use them –
- Dead wood. Dead wood is an increasingly rare habitat as we tidy our gardens, parks and amenity woodlands. It is essential for the larvae of wood-boring beetles, such as the stag beetle. It also supports many fungi, which help break down the woody material. Crevices under the bark hold centipedes and woodlice.
- Holes for solitary bees.
There are many different species of solitary bee, all are excellent pollinators. The female bee lays an egg on top of a mass of pollen at the end of a hollow tube, she then seals the entrance with a plug of mud. A long tube can hold several such cells. Hollow stems, such as old bamboo canes, or holes drilled into blocks of wood, make good homes.
- nest sites for solitary bees. Holes of different diameters mean many
different species can be catered for. You can make a home for solitary
bees by collecting old canes or pieces of hollow plant stems, then
placing in a length of plastic drain-pipe or a section from a plastic drinks bottle. You can also build a wooden shelter, similar to a bird box. Solitary bees like warmth, so place your habitat in a sunny spot, perhaps on a south-fencing wall. Bees use differing ways to seal their egg chambers: look out for canes blocked with dried mud or bits of leaf.
- Frog hole. Frogs eat many slugs and other garden pests.
- Although they need a pond to breed in, they can spend most of the year out of water. We use stone and tiles as these provide the cool damp conditions amphibians need. Newts may also take advantage of these conditions. Amphibians need a frost free place to spend the winter; this could be in the centre of our habitat, inside the base of a dry-stone wall, under a pile of rubble or deep underground.
- Straw & Hay. These provide many opportunities for invertebrates to burrow in and find safe hibernation sites.
- Dry Leaves. More homes for a variety of invertebrates; this mimics the litter on the forest floor.
- Loose bark. Beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice all lurk beneath the decaying wood and bark. Woodlice and millipedes help to break down woody plant material. They are essential parts of the garden recycling system.
- Crevices. Many garden invertebrates need a safe place to hibernate in through the winter. Our insect hotel has many different types of crannies and crevices that different species of invertebrate can hide in over winter.
- Lacewing homes. Lacewings and their larvae consume large numbers of aphids, as well as other garden pests. You can make a home for lacewings by rolling up a piece of corrugated cardboard and putting it in a waterproof cylinder, such as an old lemonade bottle.
- Ladybirds. Ladybirds and their larvae are champion aphid munchers! The adults hibernate over winter, they need dry sticks or leaves to hide in.
- Bumblebees. Every spring queen bumblebees search for a site to build a nest and found a new colony. An upturned flowerpot in a warm sheltered place might be used.
- Nectar producing plants. Plant some nectar-rich wild flowers around your habitat and perhaps a honeysuckle to scramble through the shrubs. These provide essential food for butterflies, bees and many other flying insects.
Another Video for a super bug hotel ….
I thought you might like to see another video produced by Horniman Museum which is a good example of how to construct a Bug Hotel and their value to the environment.
Smaller Bug Dwellings ?
“A hotel or an apartment block” is wonderful, but the bugs will be attracted to the smaller “semi or detached” property and happy to take up residence – perhaps hanging in a tree, secured in a shrub, attached to a wall, or even a crevice in a wall. The smaller bug homes are simple and quick to make. Here are a few ideas that could be sited in gardens, or in the trees and shrubs surrounding the Eaglesfield Park pond.
Anyone interested ?