Our gardens are home to a wide range of living creatures. An average garden could hold over 2,000 different species of insects! I do hope of which a minimum are spiders? With all this diversity of life it is good to know that very few creatures cause significant damage to our prized flowers and some help us control the pests. By providing the right habitats we can increase the number of beneficial insects in the garden. Unfortunately bumblebees and solitary bees, are declining in numbers in the countryside, so by providing homes we can contribute to their conservation.
An insect or bug hotel is usually created from natural materials, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the specific purpose or specific insect it is catered to. Most consist of several different sections that provide insects with nesting facilities – particularly during winter, offering shelter or refuge for many types of insects. I got to inspect my first bug hotel in the lovely gardens of Babylonstoren here in South Africa.
I was told that different materials attract different insects, here are a couple of examples.
- Dead wood. Dead wood is an increasingly rare habitat as we tidy our gardens, parks and woodlands. It is essential for the larvae of wood-boring beetles, such as the stag beetle. It also supports many fungi, which help break down the woody material.
- Frog hole. Frogs eat many slugs and other garden pests. Although they need a pond to breed in, they can spend most of the year out of water. They use stones and tiles as these provide the cool damp conditions amphibians need. Newts may also take advantage of these conditions.
- Straw & Hay. These provide many opportunities for invertebrates to burrow in and find safe hibernation sites.
- Loose bark. Beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice all lurk beneath the decaying wood and bark. Woodlice and millipedes help to break down woody plant material. They are essential parts of the garden recycling system.
- Dry sticks or leaves for Ladybirds. Ladybirds and their larvae are champion aphid munchers! The adults hibernate over winter and they need dry sticks or leaves to hide in. I love ladybugs so think this will be the biggest section in my bug house.
I would love to have a bug hotel in my garden someday, wouldn’t you?