Wildflowers are a great way to invite pollinator species into your outdoor space, but no matter how small the space is there is always room to do something else to keep mini-beasts happy.
While we might like an area to look neat and tidy many insect species thrive in those unsightly corners, misshapen woodpiles or collections of decaying material. So if you do feel the urge to clean up you garden, balcony or pots this autumn, why not use the collected ‘rubbish’ to create an insect hotel – and ensure there’s room for you and the insects this winter.
Here’s a guide to how we built our own ‘Bug Hotel’, but there are no rules, it can be just a few pieces of wood to a whole building – check out our Pinterest Wildlife Garden board if you need some more inspiration.
1. Select a spot
We chose a spot against a brick wall that caught the sun but also provided a little shelter from the wind. The wall was covered in ivy that was flowering so it was already a popular spot for insects. The ground was a little damp. but not wet, and we even found a frog nearby so everything indicated that this would be ideal. Obviously any space that you can spare will be suitable for an insect hotel – but if you have a garden, why not look for a place where the insects already seem to be gathering.
2. Collect materials
We collected a range of materials to make our insect hotel. However, we only used materials that we could find in the garden already – this is an outdoor upcycling project! We found old bricks and tiles, plastic pots, dead leaves, an old log from a woodpile, twigs and stems from shrub cuttings, cut grass that had been left to dry in a pile, rotting tree bark and old pieces of moist plywood – we split the layers of plywood to get more material.
3. Build, build, build
We used the collected material to build the different floors of our hotel. Our walls were made from stacked bricks, and plywood used for the floors. We also used smaller pieces of plywood to create dividing walls on some of the floors. We had three floors but you can create as many as you like! The bottom floor we left empty to create a sheltered, dark and damp space for frogs and toads to move into. Our second floor consisted of a mix of dry grass and cut material from the garden. The third floor was divided into different sections, and we used different types of woody material to create interesting spaces for insects to move into.
We also added turrets to our insect hotel – we made these from overturned plastic potting trays, which we filled with different types of materials like dead leaves, dry grass, twigs, and rotting tree bark. The pots already had holes in the top and on the sides to allow access. We weighted the plastic down with stones to make sure they didn’t shift in the wind.
4. Decorate (optional)
We wanted to add a sign to our insect hotel, just to clarify that our hotel was open for business! We used a leftover piece of plywood and some outdoor paint we had lying around to do this.
And, don’t forget, to scatter some Seedballs near by, you can’t have a hotel without a restaurant!
Once your hotel is ready you can see which guests are arriving and what they enjoy. Like any good host you need to know what your guests like – so make sure you keep an eye on where your guests are staying in the hotel – but don’t disturb them too much – then next year you can make improvements!
Making a hotel like this is obviously a great exercise to do as a family or with a group. If you want some more advice there are a lot of guides on how to build insect hotels – here are some that we like:
Special thanks to Lana Maffey for helping us to build the insect hotel in her garden, and to Rhiannon Dowling for improving this post!