DIY Insect Hotel
In your garden, there are good bugs and bad bugs. The bad ones are pests like aphids, slugs and caterpillars, which munch holes in your precious plants and help themselves to your veggies. The good ones are beneficial insects like ladybirds, bees and ground beetles, which feed on the pests and pollinate flowers.
Attract more beneficial bugs to your garden by providing a habitat that gives them a place to hole up during winter (when many bugs become more dormant—some actually hibernate). Large areas of lawn and a lack of dead wood in many yards leave insects, bees, spiders and ladybirds with nowhere to shelter from the weather and predators, so an insect hotel will be a welcome place to rest their teeny-tiny heads.
To build your insect hotel, upcycle whatever you’ve got lying around the garden. Organic materials are best—use untreated wood where possible—and customise your hotel to the size of your yard.
Layers of pallets will make a good framework if you have a big space, or you can use bricks and pieces of lumber to make levels. You could use an old drawer, a shadow box or a biscuit tin as the outer structure for a smaller hotel and create levels with lengths of plank. Then use any or all of these materials to make the separate suites.
- wooden pallets
- bamboo stakes
- old terracotta pots
- broken roof tiles
- bricks (with holes are best)
- sticks and twigs
- logs with holes drilled
- dry leaves
- corrugated cardboard
- cardboard tubes
- chicken wire
- rolled-up newspaper
How to make your DIY insect hotel:
The ideal location for your insect hotel is in a spot that gets a balance of sun and shade and is protected from the weather (bonus points for ocean views). If you have a veggie garden, don’t build your hotel too close to it.
First of all, create a few levels—the simplest method is to layer pallets or pieces of lumber with bricks between each level. Then you need to fill up in each level with a variety of materials to make different rooms for the bugs. Start with the larger items (tiles, bricks, logs) and fill in the gaps with the smaller stuff (pine cones, dried leaves, cardboard, straw, twigs). Place dead wood and bark on the lower levels for ground-dwelling creatures like borers and centipedes, and put hollow tubes (bamboo, etc.) on the top level to attract solitary bees. Make bundles of sticks and bamboo stakes and trim to size. Stuff straw or dead leaves into cardboard tubes or between tiles.
Catering to your bug hotel guests
The bigger variety of materials you use, the greater the variety of bugs that will check in to your hotel. This diversity is good because, come spring, when insects become active again, your garden will literally be buzzing.
- If you want to attract butterflies and ladybirds to your bug hotel, you can plant a little garden on top. Create a frame to fit the roof of your hotel and attach it to the top. Line with roofing felt or plastic (you don’t want a leaky roof) and add some potting mix. Plant varieties that will provide pollen and nectar, such as dandelions, calendula or marigolds.
- Put in a pool. Insects need a clean source of water, so place a dish or a saucer near your hotel, and add some rocks that rise above the level of the water. This gives bugs a place to drink and stops little critters drowning.
DIY Insect Hotel is from Lunch Lady Magazine Issue 15.