Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Biodiversity: Making a bug hotel

Around this time last year, I wrote a piece on the benefits (to wildlife) of not doing too much in the way of autumn garden tidying, and earlier this year I wrote about 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity and how easy it is to contribute in our own gardens – so I thought you might like to see one of my own humble efforts – “The Crawl Inn”.

The Crawl Inn is a “bug hotel” – a place in the garden, loosely constructed from debris, intended to provide habitat for over-wintering of creepie-crawlie and buzzing insects. Most of these are highly beneficial to our gardens – either directly (e.g. pollinating insects and those such as ladybirds & lacewings which are predators for the less-welcome visitors like aphids) or indirectly (through forming part of the food chain for other insects, small mammals & birds).

Making a bug hotel is really easy, and it costs almost nothing, as well as being great fun for the kids! There are excellent instructions on the “buglife” website, and a Google search for “bug hotel” will also provide a multitude of examples and instructions for making shelters with varying degrees of “style” & ornamentation from all sorts of materials.

My own version was made as follows:

  1. Gather the materials –
    Some plastic mesh (about 1m x 1m), 3 lengths of timber batten about 1.2m (4’) long and a piece of exterior (marine) plywood about 450mm x 350mm (18” x 14”), plus some twist tie and a staple gun.
  2. Position one of the battens about 75mm (3”) from the end of the mesh, with the end of the batten flush with the edge of the mesh.
    Use the staple gun to tack the mesh onto the batten.

  3. Repeat this with a second batten at the other end of the mesh, then with the third batten roughly in the middle of the mesh.
  4. Roll the mesh to form a cylinder with the battens on the outside. Use a few strands of twist tie to join the mesh together between the 2 outer battens.

  5. Take the tube to the spot where you want the bug hotel – ideally where it’s not exposed to cold winds and where it’s partly shady & partly sunny.

  6. Hammer the long ends of the batten into the ground to make the cylinder self-supporting. It doesn’t matter if there’s a gap at the bottom between the mesh & the ground – that will give room for small mammals to use it too!

  7. Start to fill the tube with materials to make the hotel’s accommodation –
    dry dead leaves;
    broken bricks & paving;
    dead stems & twigs from plants;
    short lengths of hollow bamboo cane (use an offcut of plastic pipe or part of a drinks bottle to hold them together as a tight bundle);
    pieces of wood with various-sized holes drilled in them;
    short lengths of tree trunks or branches – especially with rough or flaking bark, large stones, etc.

  8. Almost anything will do – the objective is to create cracks & crevices and hollow spaces of different sizes to suit a whole range of creatures.

  9. Once the tube is full, use the sheet of plywood to add a “roof” to keep the hotel rooms dry. This could be just placed on top of the tube, with bricks or large stones to weight it down, but I simply drilled a couple of holes at diagonally opposite corners then threaded some twist tie through these and secured it to the plastic mesh.

  10. If you’re going to position your hotel on solid ground (e.g. paving), you’ll need to cut the battens the same length as the width of your mesh – hammering timber through the patio just won’t work!

  11. My finishing touches were to print off the name of my hotel “The Crawl Inn” and a “Vacancies” notice, together with the “helipad” landing sign, make them waterproof by laminating them in plastic, then using the staple gun to fix them to the battens & roof.

To quote from the buglife website “A bug-friendly garden is a wildlife-friendly garden so if you want a garden filled with life, you need to look after your bugs.” – so, what are you waiting for ... get cracking on your own “B&B for Bugs” before winter sets in!