Bug's Life: Making a bug hotel in your garden
Building a bug hotel is a bit of a classic childhood activity. Of course you can buy bug hotels from the shops but making them yourself is a lot more fun and a lot more satisfying too, plus as a sneaky bonus it’s a great way to get your kids to clear up your garden a bit!
There are a few different ways to build a bug hotel but the most important things to take into consideration are how big you want your bug hotel to be, how much time you want to spend building it and of course how much materials you have that you can fill your bug hotel with - there’s no point in planning a huge bug hotel if you have nothing to fill it with!
This is a great activity as you can use things that you find around the garden and re-purpose them but there are a few basic ideas about structure and contents that will help your bug hotel to be a huge success and the highlight of any insects trip to your garden!
How to build the structure of your bug hotel
The structure of your bug hotel will depend on how much room you have in your garden and how much time you want to put into making your bug hotel. I love this insect hotel from The Eden Project which recommends using wooden pallets but I just don’t have room in my garden for something that big.
Likewise this insect hotel from Garden Therapy is beautiful - and much smaller too - but I didn’t have a drill to make the box in advance. Or the patience. Or skill. Sigh. So we went for materials that we already had in our garden - bricks, wood and slate that we used to build the outside. A small piece of slate was placed in the middle of our bug hotel to create a couple of floors (just like a normal hotel?!) and a larger piece of slate was placed on top to keep the contents of our bug hotel dry.
What to put inside a bug hotel
When you’re looking to fill your bug hotel, the most important thing is to look for natural materials - you could have a hunt round your garden for these or perhaps have a look at a trip to the woods for things like pine cones. In our hotel we added sticks, stones, rotting wood, bamboo, moss and leaves.
All the items that you put into your bug hotel should be dry but predictably halfway through making our bug hotel it suddenly tipped it down with rain and some of the materials we collected got wet, I’m sure they’ll dry out quickly enough though! The good thing about the rain was that we were able to test the waterproofness of our bug hotel - once the lid was put on, none of the contents got wet at all so I’m confident that our bug hotel will be able to last a while!
To neaten your bug hotel you could cut all your materials to the same length so that they line up nicely with the edge of your hotel, but I thought that this would probably be a bit too fussy for my kids, thankfully our bugs are down with the natural look. Other materials that you could use are dry grass and straw, broken plant pots, bark, corrugated cardboard, logs and plastic bottles. Whatever materials you use the most important element of building a bug hotel is to have fun, and of course to check on it later and see what bugs you can find!
5 easy steps for making a bug hotel
- Choose how big you want your bug hotel to be, based on space and the materials you have to use
- Build the outside shell of your bug hotel, using things like brick, wood and slate
- Collect natural materials for the interior of your bug hotel, being careful to keep them dry
- Place the materials into your bug hotel and make it a cosy place for insects to visit
- Keep an eye on your hotel to make sure it lasts in the weather, and keep a tally of insects you spot checking in for a stay!
Have you ever made a bug hotel? Let us know your top tips in a comment below, or try another garden activity like building a dinosaur garden.