If you are an organic gardener like me, then you will want to be sure that there is a place in your garden for beneficial insects to lodge for this upcoming fall and winter. Why start now? Creating a bug hotel this summer can jumpstart your garden army that helps to keep the bad bugs under control. Setting up different protected areas in your bug hostel will let the bugs find a room that suits them and prepare it as they wish. Placing a bug abode in the garden increases the chances that beneficial insects will naturally visit. Also known as bug hotels, bug boxes, and bug houses, these human-made structures offer several benefits. In addition to their decorative qualities, they help supplement the increasing loss of natural habitats.
Ladybugs like to overwinter as large groups in between dry plant material. Some twigs packed together give the ladybugs plenty of room to squeeze in and wait for warmer days and eating aphids. Read more about attracting ladybugs as garden helpers in this post:
Attracting Beetles, Spiders, Lacewings, and Friends
Many other insects will have all sorts of different nesting needs. By providing a variety of plant material in your bug hotel you will encourage all sorts of garden friends to lodge. How can you be sure that you are only providing shelter for beneficial insects? Well, you can’t. It’s a tough world out there and at times bad bugs (earwigs – yuck!!) will move in. Some may even eat their neighbors. You can’t control what happens in the bug hostel, just trust that if you provide enough space for the good guys, you can create balance in the garden.
How to build your insect home
Choose a good spot for your insect home. Firstly, because most insects like cool, moist conditions, so a shady area next to a hedge or under the tree works well. Secondly, make sure the home has a firm base, because it will end up quite heavy. Thirdly, choose a spot where the insect home can remain for at least this winter.
Create a structure with pallets. Layer old pallets on top of each other as tall as you’d like the insect home to be – ours are around eight pallets high, but five will do. Place any larger pallets at the bottom. Check the pallets don’t wobble; secure each to the one below (with string, wire or pull ties) if you need to.
Fill in the gaps with other materials. There are no rules as to how you fill the empty pallets, but here are some ideas to attract different insects:
Dead wood makes a great home for wood-boring beetles, such as the majestic stag beetle, and their larvae. It also supports fungi, which can break down the natural material. Centipedes and woodlice can burrow under the bark.
Hollow stems, canes, and holes drilled into blocks of wood are all ideal spots for solitary bees to lay their eggs. These bees help pollinate flowers (so helping your plants produce vegetables) in the garden. Because solitary bees like sunny spots, place these on the sunniest side of the insect home.
Stone and tiles provide lovely cool, moist conditions for frogs and newts. They might be best lower down, on the shadiest side of the insect home.
Hay and straw give insects a good place to burrow and hibernate.
Dry leaves provide homes for insects, just like leaf litter on the forest floor. Ladybirds hibernate here over winter – and they’re great for eating aphids in the garden.
Rotting wood and bark is where beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice love to be. Because woodlice and millipedes break down woody plant material, they’re an important part of your garden recycling system.
Corrugated cardboard rolled up inside a lemonade bottle will attract lacewings, which are really good at eating pests.
Have you created a bug hotel? If so, please share below!