So who knew some creatures find tunnels tempting, are turned on by twigs or sleep deep in bliss on a straw mattress? Beneficial garden bugs are very discerning, yet there’s a posh insect hotel in waiting among your garden debris that can make a handy bolthole for the better bugs of our world.
Make an insect hotel
There’s no design template for building an insect hotel. It depends on what materials you have, which should be natural and preferably recycled. You can leave appropriate plant litter about your garden and your insect friends will find it. Or do a purpose build with an old wooden box – or make your own - to house your hotel rooms.
NOTE Don't use treated timber - the chemicals repel insects.
Gather your supplies
• 50 x 200mm x 1m hardwood sleeper
• 200mm x 10-20mm-dia dry branches with a pith centre, such as hydrangea, bamboo or tibouchina
• Piece of corrugated iron, for roof
• 200mm x 100-150mm-dia log
You'll also need
Tinsnips; power drill; 6 x 160mm auger drill bit; 10 x 190mm auger drill bit; sandpaper; handsaw/power saw; tape measure; 75mm and 50mm screws
Drill randomly spaced 6mm and 10mm holes in ends of timber log.
Cut two 300 x 200mm lengths and two 100 x 200mm lengths of hardwood. Position pieces in butt-joint box shape. Drill a clearance hole into each corner of top and countersink, then drill corresponding pilot holes through sides. Drive in 75mm screws to secure top to sides. Flip assembly and repeat to secure bottom to sides.
Drill randomly spaced 10mm holes into 1 face of box. Sand area.
Cut corrugated iron to size, leaving overhang at sides to suit. Bend sheet in half widthways, reopen and position on top of box. Put log inside, then secure corrugated iron to sides of box with 50mm screws.
Bug hotel ideas
What to put in a bug hotel
- Logs with holes drilled through them of various widths and to various depths from 3-10cm. Don’t drill all the way through or you’ll create drafts.
- Bamboo culms with nodes – or interior walls - still intact.
- Holes drilled into untreated timber offcuts.
- Twigs and sticks.
- Banksia or pine cones, clumps of gumnuts.
- Terracotta or clay tiles or crumbling bricks.
- Shredded cardboard, straw or coconut fibre.
How to attract different insects
- Solitary native bees love holes in wood, either drilled through a log or a block of timber, or bamboo culms that have natural cavities, or in hollows in dead wood. Some dig holes in sand or clay.
- Ladybirds are attracted to bundles of twigs and sticks.
- Lacewings like to nestle in straw, coconut fibre or shredded cardboard.
- Many beetles scurry under bark.
- Assassin and damsel bugs like soft greenery.
- Earwigs wriggle under sand or stones.
What are the benefits of using a bug hotel?
Bug hotels attract good insects. Broadly speaking, there are two types of benefits: pollinators who ensure we have flowering plants and vital veg and carnivores that eat pests like caterpillars that destroy precious plants.
In winter, insects can use your hotel rooms to hibernate. In summer it can be a place of nest.
Beneficial insects that use bug hotels
- Native bees aren’t big on honey-making, their strong suit is as a pollinator.
- Ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies and assassin bugs eat aphids.
- Ladybird adults and larvae also eat thrips, leafhoppers, moth eggs and small caterpillars.
- Damsel bugs eat caterpillars, moth eggs, aphids, leafhoppers.
- Lacewings, hoverflies, ladybirds, beetles and earwigs eat wood lice and wood mites.
- Native earwigs devour soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars.
Can you paint a bee hotel?
As the viability of European honey bee populations come under increasing threat, now’s the time it entice native bees into your garden. Make a paradise for these pollinators with colour by painting your hotel in enticing colours - such as purple, aqua blue, orange and yellow.
The best place to put a bug hotel
Position your hotel so it faces all-day sun if you live in a cool climate and morning sun in warmer and tropical areas. Give it a roof to protect your guests and their rooms from rain.
Build it near a grouping of salvia, sedum and artemisia - but make sure its sheltered from winds.
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