Beneficial insects have an essential role to play in all gardens. Whether they’re pollinating our crops or preying on pests, these insects make our job as gardeners a lot easier. By building a bug hotel, you can encourage beneficials to check in and take up residence. In this article and video, we’ll show you how easy it is to make one.
Bug hotel designs
Bug hotels can be made from salvaged and natural materials such as prunings, sticks, straw, broken tiles, bricks and old pieces of wood. The secret lies in providing a variety of habitats to attract a variety of insects.
Bug hotels vary in size and complexity according to the space and time you have available to make one. The simplest hotels consist of a dry, sheltered space into which bedding materials are stuffed. More complicated hotels may be made up of different materials stacked together to draw in the widest range of insect guests. Old pallets can be very useful in this instance.
Bugs you’ll attract
Decaying logs will attract wood-boring beetles and centipedes, while bark is a must for woodlice and millipedes. Tempt in ground and rove beetles (which eat slug eggs) by packing in plenty of twigs and branches. Native (or solitary) bees, wasps and hoverflies love hollow stems, such as bamboo canes, while spiders will make their home in just about any dry nook or cranny. Ladybirds devour aphids and hibernate in hollow stems and leaf litter.
How to make a bug hotel
Here's how to make a simple hanging bug hotel suitable for solitary bees, ladybirds and hoverflies.
What you’ll need
To make your hotel you will need a plank of wood 120cm, or four feet long, some thin shingles to serve as roof tiles, some strong string, plus a plank of wood wide enough to form a back plate to your hotel. To avoid harm to the insects, use untreated wood.
To fill the hotel you’ll need a selection of hollow stems – bamboo canes are ideal for this. You’ll also need a drill, a screwdriver and some screws, a hammer and tacks and some pruners.
Build the hotel
Begin by making the walls to your hotel. Cut the long plank to four equal lengths of 30cm or a foot. Attach them to each other using the screws. You may need to make a pilot hole for each screw before securing it into place. Here’s the finished structure.
With the walls complete, attach the back plate to create a snug seal. You can mark the footprint of the walls onto the plate as a guide before screwing it into position.
Now for the roof shingles. Use the tacks to simply hammer these into place, overlapping the shingles to help rain to run off and keep inside of the hotel dry. If you wish, you can now paint the hotel with a natural, non-toxic paint or wood stain to give a colourful finish. Allow the paint to dry before continuing.
Add the bedding
It’s now time for the bedding materials. Cut the stems or bamboo to length. The bamboo should sit flush with the walls of the hotel like this. Pack them into place to give a good, solid finish. Drill two holes into the top of the back plate then thread some string through. Tie the ends into a knot then hang your hotel up in a dry, sheltered place in full sun or dappled shade – in among trees and shrubs is ideal, or you could hammer your hotel into the eaves of a garden shed or outbuilding.
A simple alternative
A simple alternative to a bamboo cane hotel is to drill lots of holes into a solid block of wood. Avoid drilling all the way through the block. You can also add a shingle roof for a decorative finish. Attach a vine eye, thread through your string, then hang up into position.
As you can see, it’s very easy to make a safe and secure habitat for beneficial bugs to thrive. How do you attract beneficial insects into your garden? Do drop us a comment below and let us know.