ON A visit to Shipley Country Park I was very interested to see a superb, five star, bug resort hotel situated on a wall in the courtyard of the visitor centre.
The accommodation for the bugs is surrounded by a wide variety of nectar producing plants, making the whole structure a very attractive feature, covering about 4m2 of the wall.
Inspired by this spectacular bug conservation project, I decided to build my own bug hotel in our small town garden.
Before starting on this project, some research was called for via the Internet. Entering the term ‘bug hotel’ produced a comprehensive response, ranging from instructions for building a ‘lodge’ to the construction of a ‘Deluxe Resort Hotel’ with penthouse accommodation to the purchase of cheap and cheerful models via eBay.
In building any kind of bug hotel, the emphasis is on the use of natural materials as far as possible. Recycled old pallets, foraged natural plant parts, pine cones, dead and rotted wood are ideal.
Pallets can be made into a stack where there is room. This approach has advantages, since pallets are not made for ease of dismantling.
My researches soon convinced me that there were many options for my proposed bug hotel, in terms of size, use of materials and sophistication, or lack of it.
All the leading conservation agencies strongly advocate the provision of bug hotels in our gardens.
Given that an average garden could contain 2,000 species of invertebrates, there is obviously great scope to provide a habitat that would suit a fair percentage of these wonderful creatures.
Ever mindful of our neighbour’s veggies and prize flowers, I felt I had to be careful to take into account any risks involved by encouraging insect life.
On balance, insects are very beneficial in gardens, as natural pest controllers and pollinators. They are also of great interest in their own right. On balance, the risks of creating a plague of locusts of Biblical proportions seemed slight, so I decided to proceed.
Consideration needs to be given to the site chosen, a cool damp site is preferred by many potential guests. However, solitary bumblebees prefer a sunny site.
A suitable site was easily found in our small garden. The basic aim of the structure is to create a habitat which has many small nooks, crannies and crevices where many insects can hide, shelter, lay eggs and hibernate.
Natural materials are used,dead leaves,hollow tubes, such as cut lengths of bamboo canes (ends stopped to avoid a wind tunnel effect), dead wood and leaves, pine cones,hay, straw and hollow stems of garden plants are ideal. Nectar producing plants and a source of water close by are invaluable.
By now, I had some idea of what my my hotel would look like. I envisaged a tower 1m by 0.5m, mounted on a bench made from old pallets. The tower would be divided into small compartments roughly 25 by 15cm.
Each compartment would be filled with natural materials as outlined above. The wood was sourced from friendly local suppliers at a cost of about £10.
It is possible to buy a variety of bug hotels from garden centres and on eBay. Specialist accommodation can be either made or purchased, with a view to attracting particular species, such as ladybirds and lacewings.
The key benefits of a bug hotel of any size can be considerable. These include the improvement of the garden’ s biodiversity, natural pest control and improved pollination. Birds are also likely to benefit too. Many of us provide bird boxes, why not bug hotels?
What have I achieved so far: The bug hotel was constructed earlier in the year, so it is rather early to come to any firm conclusions. There are few signs of residents as yet, except for some spiders’ webs.
No adverse events have been recorded, we have a fine crop of pest-free runner beans, but this is probably due to the sunny weather.
In researching this subject I have become aware of a condition called trypophobia, which is the irrational fear of clusters of small holes.
Sufferers from this condition should not construct a bug hotel. My hope is that our bugs will exhibit signs of ‘tryptophilia’.
Time will tell, but if during next summer, swarms of ladybirds and lacewings are seen over Ashbourne we will all know the outcome.