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.
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.
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.