Insect hotels offer great habitats over winter and during the nesting season for a wide variety of beetles, bees and butterflies, as well as other types of invertebrates and animals too. Many species that use them are beneficial to our gardens and land – for example, solitary bees which are extremely efficient pollinators and ladybirds which predate pests. This is a great way to use up and recycle odd bits and ends round the yard or garden, and it’s a great project to do with the family when you’re spending more time at home.
Find a quiet spot on well-drained ground which catches the sun on one or two sides, and if possible, choose somewhere with wildflowers or a pond nearby. To make the base structure create a level base of bricks or rubble. This will stop the bottom pallet from rotting and the hotel slumping. Next, stack up some wooden pallets, creating gaps with layers of bricks as you go. It can be as tall as you like, you can have turrets, you could have a moat… use your imagination. Most hotel residents would prefer to be dry, so cover the top and the most weather-beaten side with waterproof felt, tin or onduline. Covering the sides with mesh wire can afford some protection against damage from foraging badgers and birds. Make the fillings recessed, so that predators can’t reach through the mesh easily.
HOW TO FILL IT
This part depends on whatever you have lying around but here are some ideas:
- Stuff plant pots and containers with leaves, folded/scrunched toilet rolls, pine cones and twigs.
- Drill holes of various sizes in logs and blocks of wood.
- Fold and layer hessian sacks.
- Create bundles of bamboo/hollow stemmed sticks or stuff them into half a plastic bottle.
- Stack tiles and loose bark slices.
- Roll up corrugated cardboard to make snug scrolls.
- Stuff holes and gaps with straw, leaves, pebbles and stones.
- Put in a variety of habitat to attract different species. This will avoid large populations of any one species which can lead to disease build-up. Change the bee nesting tubes and straws every winter, because these are susceptible to parasites.
Stuffing the ground layer with leaves and hay will make a good hibernation or nesting site for hedgehogs. Also place a shallow tray of compost on top of the roof and grow flowers in it to attract insects. Make sure you monitor your hotel. Get a bug guide and see if you can identify what is using it.
For more information and help to identify bugs see www.buglife.org.uk.