How to build a Bug Hotel.

I recently organised a project for TCV building a Bug Hotel in some Spruce and Birch woodland we are thinning near Slippery Stones. Bug Hotels are a great way to use natural resources to increase the biodiversity in an area, and don’t just have to be made in a woodland environment like ours, but in your garden or patch of grass outside a Scout hut for example. It can be a great activity for groups, teaching people manual skills and about biodiversity and helping wildlife.

 

Many of the instructions you will find online involve you using lots of manmade materials, and I’m always keen to avoid doing this as much as possible. So I didn’t use any crates or terecota pots. Nor did I bring in compost from outside the area or seeds to plant wild flowers, as is suggested often. This is because in terms of bio-security, that’s a total nightmare. Compost and crates, often bring in disease of one type or another, and in an industry very much aware of Ash Die-back at the moment, we need to avoid this at all costs. You also dont necessarily want to bring in species, however nice they may be, that aren’t supposed to be in the area. You want to do work that improves the habitat as it stands or moves it towards a more ‘native’ or appropriate habitat. So for example, the woods we are working in are Sitka Spruce, we are selectively felling in this woods so that the native birch that should be there, and is growing around the outside can gradually re-inhabit the area.

 

So that’s a round about way of saying that this Bug Hotel uses all local natural materials with one or two exceptions.

The best time to build your Bug Hotel is Autumn when there are plenty of fallen leaves for you to gather. It’s also the best time of year to thin areas of wood, so you might be more able to source the timber you need.

 

 BALIBALI Bug Hotel

First things first, you need to create the frame of the hotel. We built it in two lifts, the first up to about knee height and the second to about hip height. In rows of three, lay and bind your timber alternately, a bit like building a Jenga tower. Your logs want to be about 1-1.5m long. Make sure you bind the overlapping parts securely using twine.  Once you’ve completed the first lift it’s time to fill it in with all the things your Bugs will like. Placing different materials in each square creates different habitats. We used fallen leaves, cardboard such as toilet rolls, stone and twigs. Each of these provide habitats for different types of invertebrates. For example, Worms love decaying leaves, whilst Ladybirds will appreciate the twigs to hibernate in.  Solitary Bees love holes, so drilling into the logs or using bamboo sticks is a good idea. The dead wood of your logs are highly valuable. In terms of biodiversity woods should ideally be made up of 60% dead wood. BALI BALI

BALI

Build your second lift and fill it in in a similar manner, top it off with some recently brashed branches whist will stop the leaves inside from blowing away and provide a degree of protection from predators.

Not that you want to provide too much protection. This project is after all aimed at increasing biodiversity, and the invertebrates you are housing in style are the bottom of the food chain. More habitat for them = more invertebrates,. More invertebrates = more small mammals and small birds. More small birds/mammals = bigger species, hopefully even apex species like birds of prey.

 BALI

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2nd Star to the right and then straight on till morning.

Plough-Best

I’m reading this really interesting book at the moment that is all about Natural Navigation. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in reconnecting with the land, although it is a bit complicated in parts and I can’t pretend to understand a lot of it.

Whilst reading I was struck by why I was reading it.

I realised that I have a longing deep inside me to learn techniques and skills, capture knowledge that has died out or is dying and that is all about our connectivity with nature and the land. This isn’t out of some sort of noble, selfless interest in preserving the knowledge of mankind but more out of a desperation to go back. To go back to how it was, with less houses, more wilderness and where humans had an instinctive attunement to nature. It was also a feeling that we as animals must have this knowledge within out nature, that somehow we are passing it down through our genes and it is only the absurdity of urban modern living that is cutting it off from us.

Is this possible. Can we do this? I remember watching a program about baby Boa Constrictors and how they are abandoned by their mothers from the off. The zoo keepers had to separate the baby snakes from each other immediately and demonstrated why with a dead mouse on a stick. These snakes know instinctively how to hunt and kill from the second they are born. Amazing.

Surely this is possible with us. (Not the hunting or killing bit, but the innate knowledge). Watching my little niece it is clear to me that we do have some knowledge inside us that we are born with. Some sort of Genetic or Cultural Memory.

I hope to hell that this is true. Otherwise there is no hope for the survival of millennia’s worth of experience. Also, it means that my desire to learn these things is going to be a hard slog.

But if it is true it offers hope to people like me who want to learn these ideas and skills but can’t read every book on the subject. Perhaps we need to expose ourselves to the outside world more, take a leap of faith and hope that from some dark recess inside us we can find the knowhow to get home.

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January Small Stones #2

8/1/14

A Pint, after revelations
to re-fuse our disconnected
electrodes.

9/1/14

A silver snake, slithering down
through complex Moorland patchworks;
Brown Bracken, yellow Grass.

Black Cows standing on mounds,
proud like the bare trees beside them.

Deep fog rolling off the pines,
uninviting.
But that’s where I am going.

10/1/14

Single, Silver, Solitary Sentinel.

12/1/14

Brown organs grow out of the tree, flesh hanging down, pouches for small mammals to tumble out of still in their foetal  form.

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January Small Stones #1

OK, so I may have totally forgot about this, so am a week behind and my Misses is already putting me to shame. But here is my first offering:

7/1/14

Waves crashing,
Spray pulled up into the air,
All in the opposite direction to the fall.
Counter-intuitive.
A crescent above, waxing, is this it’s work.

 Howden Res

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Endurance; a response.

Reading a post by my wife about Endurance I was moved to make a comment, which in turn became more of a post.  For those who are interested please read my wife’s blog post and find my response below:

Sometimes I wonder why people bother with life as it just seems to get harder and harder. If we could all listen to ourselves more we’d live a more enriched, spiritual and healthy life.

I’m struck with the similarities here in terms of our attitude to the natural world. As a species we are pushing the world to the limits of its endurance and we are seeing the signs; flooding, droughts, extinction, decline. Perhaps we need to stand back, enjoy nature and let it rest… end our endless progress. We must allow nature to endure in respect to the second definition.

There is a connection here. Humans, although modern life may not allow it/agree, are hardwired to be outside. Study after study has shown that mental and physical well being are greatly enhanced from being in a countryside setting. Indeed in a recent study comparing the same amount of exercise done in urban and rural locations (actually on a treadmill with picture projected on wall), scientists found that exercise in an urban setting actually increased the participants blood pressure. Being outdoors and engaging with nature can help you endure in both senses of the word. Firstly, it allows you to stop, to escape urban life and to reenter it (if you have to) fresher and more ready for the challenges life throws you. Secondly, it actually improves your mental and physical health and you are statistically more likely to live longer.

It seems obvious to me that in order for our species to endure in the second sense of the word, we must take more care to ensure that our world and the nature we share it with ‘remain in existence; last.

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Hardest job in the world?

Airlifting Day 1; Kinder

I’ve just started my new job with Moors For The Future Partnership  as an Airlifting Assistant. I get flown up to the moors (cool) and help co-ordinate the drops (cool) –  which are bags full of conservation material, things like heather brash, seeds, stone etc. Then I get lifted down again (even more cool).

Can you tell I think this job is pretty cool?

Anyway. My question to you is this: What do you reckon the hardest part of the job is?

1) Learning all the safety procedures for entering and exiting the helicopter.

2) Using hand signals to communicate with the pilot.

3) Counting all of the bags that get dropped that day with one of those clicky things.

4) Taking a picture of a moving helicopter with a load for this blog.

5) Avoiding 6 heavy bags attached to the helicopter which are swinging your way.

6) Dragging your feet through Peat all day.

OK, so you can tell from the picture that number 4 is quite hard, but it’s not strictly speaking part of the job, so that’s a bit of a trick question.

Would you believe it, the hardest part of the job is remembering to click the clicky thing every time the helicopter is arriving. When you are concentrating on numbers 2, 5 & 6, number 3 seems to go out the window. I ended up missing 2 drops which put my count 12 bags out!

Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get better. I cant wait to get out again. As soon as the helicopter took off for the first time I knew that I was hooked (figuratively). There’s nothing quite like it to be honest. Seeing the Peaks from above, spending a whole day up there until the sun is beginning to set, then getting another exhilarating trip back down.

What a wonderful way to spend a day.

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Dovestone Res

Dovestone Res Dovestone Res

Was supposed to be out with the Dovestone Rangers today but they didn’t turn up so I took myself around the reser and was treated by some lovely views. Even had a sheep dog befriend me for some of the way, much to the farmers displeasure. 

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