Building an Insect Hotel

Insect hotels are one of the latest ‘must haves’ for the garden that has everything.  Part garden art and part winter habitat for beneficial insects, they have made an appearance at Chelsea Flower Show, been the subject of several World Records (the first record being set by Kent Wildlife Trust in 2010) and are widely available in the shops.  But are they really worth having, and can you build your own?

The simple answer to both statements is a resounding YES.

It is estimated that the average garden may support up to 2,000 different insect species.  Whilst it is inevitable that a few of these insects will cause damage to our prized flowers, fruit and vegetables, many more will be beneficial, feeding on pests, and helping in the important business of plant pollination.

 

So why do insects need hotels?

Insects love untidy gardens.  Piles of dead wood and leaves provide a valuable source of food to some insects and provide shelter for others.  However, as our gardens and green spaces are built on and become more manicured, insects have fewer places to live.  In addition, some species such as bumblebees and solitary bees are declining in numbers in the wider countryside, so by providing homes, we can contribute to their conservation.

 

How do I go about building an insect hotel?

The best thing about building your own insect hotel is that there are no set rules – you don’t have to spend lots of money at a garden centre, DIY store or on the internet, just have a look around and use a little imagination.

There are plenty of tips and hints available on the internet such as building a minibeast hotel (www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk).

The following tips have been taken from “Wildlife Stacks” – a document published by www.rspb.co.uk.

  1. Most invertebrates prefer moist areas of dappled shade. Choose somewhere easily visible, and perhaps close to a hedge, shrubbery or pond.
  2. Make sure the site has a firm and level surface to build on. Be creative and provide lots of nooks and crannies, using whatever natural materials you have to hand.
  3. Arrange some bricks on the ground on their side. Butt a pair of bricks together, leaving a small gap before the next pair, or try creating ‘H’ shaped cells of bricks and fill the space between with woodchips and leaf litter.
  4. Lay a wooden pallet or strips of wood across the top of your bricks, then construct the next level. Each layer should be around 100 mm deep. Continue to fill some gaps with hay, straw, dry leaf litter and wood chippings.
  5. Keep the stack dry with roof tiles or wooden board covered in roofing felt or polythene. On top of this, place crushed bricks, concrete or limestone chippings and plant with sedum or other low-growing, drought tolerant plants.
  6. An alternative, using off-cuts of 18 mm board, is to create a rigid box with different sized ‘pigeon holes’. Use your recycled materials to fill each of the compartments. Give the roof a shallow enough pitch to allow it to be planted.

Adapted with permission from an article from the Wye Church Eco-congregation working group.

 

 

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