In the insect world there is the good, the bad and the downright ugly. We can all think of lots of bad ones, like the spiders that can kill, wasp and bees that sting, ants that bit, and termites that can eat your house. But not all are bad. In fact some are absolutely vital for us to get a good crop and keep other pests and diseases at bay.
As we know without bee’s flowers don’t set seed or fruit, and it mostly the European or the native stingless bee that we see doing this in our gardens. These bees live in hives but there are also solitary bees like the sweetly named Blue Banded Bumble Bee. Solitary bees live in small holes in rocks or logs, more of a burrow than a hive, and they line it with pollen and eggs. There are also predatory wasps that capture caterpillars and grubs, lay their egg inside them, stuff them in a small hole and when the young hatches, they eat the grub. Sounds a bit macabre I know but it is these sorts of insects that we need in our gardens.
There are also lizards,geckos, ants, spiders, wood louse, centipedes and cockroaches. Things we’d rather not see in our house but are vital to a healthy garden.
Insect hotels are a great way to encourage these beneficial insects into your garden. By creating habitat for them you are increasing the bio diversity and allowing the balance to be restored. Having lots of little bugs working to keep your garden healthy is a lot better than spraying chemicals to correct any problems you have.
Here is how you can do it:
Look for a place in your garden that has some protection, isn’t too exposed and also get a good about of sun all year round. Remember lizards are also beneficial critters in your garden and they need the sun to get them up and at it in the morning.
Once you’ve got your spot, start collecting old bricks, bamboo, pipe, tree logs, rocks, tin cans, bark and anything that looks like an insect or lizard would like to call it home. Things that are made of natural material and will eventually break down are ideal as this mimics the natural environment that bugs need. It will also attract other smaller bugs and micro organisms to your hotel and create a small eco system. You will also need something to stack your hotel in and hold it all together. How big or how small you make it is up to you, half an old 44 gallon drum, a milk crate, wooded box, stacked, an old letterbox out are ideal.
Now that you have your location and materials sorted you can start stacking. You are aiming is to create lots of little ‘rooms’ in your hotel. It is a good idea to have all the materials the same length and start on the bottom adding large and small pieces as you go. You don’t need to fill and the gaps as these can become ‘rooms’ as well.
Your insect hotel can be as big or small or colourful or simple as you like. You can have a one off boutique hotel or create a chain of them around your garden, but let you imagination run wild. This is a great project for kids to get involved in and they will love seeing what sort of four, six or even eight legged critters take up residence.
We’d love to hear from you! Did you make an insect hotel? Send us some photos and tell us what insects you see living there.