In order to have a good variety of wildlife in your garden you need to have a healthy insect population. Insects do some very important jobs in the garden and are the food of many creatures.
You can help to encourage more insects to live in your garden by knowing how to make an insect house or insect hotel. You can have one big one, or perhaps a few smaller ones will suit your situation better.
What is an insect hotel or insect house?
It is a man-made structure that is made from different natural materials. They can be big or small and can be different shapes depending on the purpose for it and the insects that will live there.
Why do we need insects?
Your plants need insects for pollination so that they can produce fruit and seeds. You need the good bugs to keep the bad bugs under control. Some insects are good for eating rotting plant material and wood, thus adding important nutrients to the soil. They are also food for different creatures including birds, bats, frogs, toads, lizards, fish and even some small mammals like hedgehogs.
There are many reasons why you want to have a healthy insect population in your garden and there are a few different ways that you can create areas where insects like to live. One way is through knowing how to attract pollinators, another is knowing how to use logs and stick piles to create homes for insects.
Another way is by knowing how to build an insect hotel.
An insect hotel is really just a collection of different materials that insects like to live and breed in, all placed close together in a frame. It can be any size that suits your garden. Some people like to have one big hotel, others like a few small specialised houses.
What do you need for your insect hotel?
There are many materials that you can use in an insect hotel and this is a good chance to do some recycling and repurposing. Make sure everything that you use is natural and not treated with chemicals or anything that might be harmful to insects.
Depending on the type and size of hotel that you want to build you might need something to use as a frame. This could be old wooden pallets, old shelves, even an old cupboard; it could just be a few clay bricks and a couple of planks; or it can be built to the size and shape you want it to be. You will want to put some sort of roof over it to keep it dry in wet weather. This will help the insects to keep dry and safe and will also give them a place to overwinter in the cold areas.
You list might include some of the following items:
- Various grasses
- Broken clay tiles or pots
- Paper / cardboard / egg boxes
- Wooden logs / sticks
- Whole clay plant pots
- Moss and other plant material
- Chicken wire or wire mesh
These are just some ideas and once you get going you are sure to find many items that you can use for your insect habitat.
A hotel has many rooms
Create sections with the different materials to cater for the different insects. Solitary bees like to nest in holes in wood or logs. For this you will need to drill holes in a log or in piece of wood. Fill a section with a bunch of stick and another with grasses or reeds, or you can mix them up in one section. Stones can have their section, broken clay pieces in theirs. Use some overturned clay pots that insects and other creatures can crawl under.
To put leaves or moss and other softer materials in a section you can make a cage for these using some chicken wire and then push this into place. The chicken wire will prevent the material from falling out or being blown away by the wind.
Have fun with the family
There are many ways to do this and there are really no rules. This can be a really fun family project for a weekend at home. Once you have your insect hotel built you have a place where you can discover what insects you have in your garden. Not all the insects will use it, but if you have created a variety of habitats in it then it will be used by a good variety of them. Don’t be surprised if you also find some other creatures like lizards making use of your new habitat.
Do you want an easier option?
If you really don’t want to build your own insect hotel, there are some great ones available to buy. I have put together a small selection of some for you to look at here.
What do you prefer: to build your own insect hotel, or to buy one? Do you have one in your garden and has it made a difference? Let us know by leaving a comment below.