Bugs and insects play an important role in the ecosystem. Why not create a ‘buzzing’ bug hotel teaming with interesting mini guests for you to observe right in your backyard?
What are the benefits of building a bug hotel?
Creating bug hotels is a great way to promote local biodiversity and offer sanctuary to a diverse range of fascinating insects. As many of these insects play a crucial role in pollination, supporting them can also contribute to the growth of plant life in the area. Bug hotels can be used as an educational tool to study wildlife and get children interested in the natural environment.
Bug hotel interesting facts
Bugs play an essential role in the decomposition of organic material. They provide a food source for birds and some even act as a predator to small garden pests, helping to control them in an eco-friendly way.
The type of creatures your bug hotel attracts will depend on its design, size, and location. While you’ll likely anticipate many of your guests, expect some surprises as well—from tiny inhabitants like ants to larger visitors such as mice, frogs, toads, and hedgehogs, especially in larger designs. Ultimately, each of these guests, expected or not, play a part in the same ecosystem and contribute to its biodiversity.
Insects have varying preferences for their living conditions. To accommodate their needs, we can create zones within our design that cater to different temperatures and moisture levels. This way, we can attract a diverse range of insects to our space.
Each bug hotel is unique to its location, reflecting the biodiversity of the region and attracting its own interesting guests. Other locations or countries will have their own distinct bug hotels with their own unique guests.
Building a bug hotel
How you make a bug hotel will depend on a number of factors. It might be large or small or as simple or complex as you want. Ours is just a simple design aimed at a small garden space. It is by no means ‘the best way’ to do it, but simply how we did it with the materials available and in the space we have.
What materials does a bug hotel need?
Use a variety of materials to attract a wide range of insects. Avoid using plastics, metals or treated wood as some of these may be harmful to insects. Plastic, metal and glass may also get too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Don’t use materials that have been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides either.
The materials you choose might include some of the following:
Bricks, logs, twigs, bamboo canes roof slates, terracotta pots, pinecones, straw, dried leaves, moss, stones, pebbles and untreated wood (we made use of an old pallet for ours).
Here’s a list of the tools and materials we used:
- A hammer.
- A drill/screwdriver.
- A workbench.
- A wooden pallet.
- A handful of nails.
- Approx 25 screws.
- A brick with holes in.
- Twigs, bamboo and dried leaves.
Building the Bug Hotel
We wanted our bug hotel to be eco-friendly, so we decided to repurpose a wooden pallet which was going to be thrown away and an old brick we found in our garden.
We used the brick as a guide for the size and cut some pieces of wood from the pallet to fit snuggly around it in a square frame.
Take great care in handling old pieces of wood which may contain nails and sharp edges/splinters. Also ensure children are supervised by a responsible adult at all times.
In addition to the square section of the frame, measure a section of wood to go above the brick and act as a shelf.
Carefully drill some small pilot holes and screw the square frame together. Use a pencil to mark where you need to drill.
Now you can measure two more pieces of wood to act as dividers for the upper section. This will make three ‘rooms’ for your bug hotel. Attach these in the same way as you made the frame, by drilling pilot holes and screwing the pieces together.
Cut two slightly longer pieces of wood to act as the roof and attach them together at a right angle. We attached these with nails. Again, drill some pilot holes first to prevent the wood from splitting when you hammer the nails in.
To attach our roof we used three screws, but you might want to use some wood glue instead. As it’s not a real roof, it doesn’t matter if the structure is not super strong! We left ours bare, but you might want to attach some pieces of slate or pebbles to provide an extra layer of weatherproofing for the bug hotel.
Avoid using varnishes or paints though, as these may be harmful to some of the insects.
Finally, we filled the sections with our chosen materials. We learned that different bugs are attracted to certain materials, so we had to be careful with our choices. For the bottom section, we used brick because it’s best to keep the heavy stuff to the bottom. As for the other three rooms of our bug hotel, we used stones and pebbles, twigs, bamboo and bark, all tightly packed into each section.
Choose a location
Find somewhere firm and level on which to place the bug hotel. The area in which it’s situated will play a role in determining which insects choose to visit (some prefer damp, shady areas whilst others prefer sunnier spots). If you have vegetables growing in your garden, you may want to situate it away from them. We chose a quiet and reasonably sheltered area at the bottom of our garden under a tree.
All that’s left to do is wait for the guests to arrive and check in to their luxurious new bug hotel. Hopefully they will enjoy their stay and we can’t wait to observe them!
We had a great time constructing our bug hotel, and it gave us a chance to brush up on some basic measuring and woodworking skills. If we were to do it again, there are a few changes we might consider, but we’re generally happy with how it came out. It’s a wonderful addition to our garden and is a great conversation starter! Crafting a bug hotel is an excellent activity for the whole family, and it’s an eco-friendly way of repurposing materials that would otherwise be discarded. Additionally, it can provide a safe way to introduce children to tools while under supervision.
As your bug hotel caters to local insects, it can be interesting to find out more about them. Research each one you see, finding out about its life cycle and unique attributes. Perhaps you’ll even want to do a sketch or two to record your findings. Have fun observing your new guests!