Building a bug hotel for the garden is a fun project to dowith the kids or for adults who are kids at heart. Building homemade bug hotelsprovide a welcome refugeto beneficial insects, which we could not have fruits and vegetableswithout. Interested in constructing a DIY insect hotel? Read on to learn how tomake a bug hotel.
All insects don’t fly south when winter approaches, someboard down the hatches and go into diapause, a suspended state of developmentkind of like hibernation. Homemade hotels for insects fill a role that manypeople think doesn’t need to be filled. After all, don’t insects find shelterand a place to raise the next generation on their own anyway?
It turns out that many gardeners are too tidy. Many of usremove all waste from our landscapes, and in the process wind up removinginsect homesteads. Beehomes have become all the rage, and while bees are champion pollinators,other insects are beneficial to the garden too. Of course, ladybugsserve a valuable service by eating aphids, but parasiticwasps, lacewings,hoverflies,and even spidersall do their part to keep predator insects at bay. They all deserve a safeinsect hotel to hide out in.
Building your hotel is part garden art and part winterhabitat for these beneficial insects.
When building a bug hotel, you may choose to focus on onespecies of insect or create hotels for multiple species of insect guests.Creating your own bug hotel can be as simple or elaborate as you want.Providing a variety of plant material will encourage a variety of insectfriends.
It’s important to know how different insects overwinter; forinstance, solitary bees (those that don’t sting or build a colony) prefer tonest in hollow stems over the winter while ladybugs overwinter in groupsamongst dry plant material. Hoverflies overwinter as pupae in leaf debris,straw, or pinecones and lacewings in rolled up corrugated paper.
DIY insect hotels can be made out of recycled material suchas bricks, drain tiles, pallets, and even stacks of old logs. Imitate nature tothe best of your ability by adding leaves, straw, mulch, pinecones, and sticksto create “rooms.” Place your homemade bug hotels in a shady area that receivesmorning sun with afternoon shade.
Solitary bees need a hotel with hollow holes. Their hotelcan be made out of bamboosticks or hollow stemmed plants set in drainage tiles, cans, or hollow logs tokeep them dry or drill holes in a block of wood. Drilled holes should be atleast six inches (15 cm.) deep and smooth to protect their delicate wings.
Bumblebees die out during the winter with the exception of the new queen. Asimple bug hotel you can make suitable for the new royal is an upturnedflowerpot filled with straw or garden debris. Building something to entice theladybugs is as simple as packing some twigs and dry plant material together.This will provide them with shelter and food during the long cold winter.
Parasitic wasps are extremely beneficial in the garden andhelp to control pests. As with solitary bees, a piece of wood with holesdrilled into it makes an excellent parasitic wasp bug hotel for the garden.
The best time to make an insect home is early autumn, so that the bugs have somewhere to hibernate for the winter.
You can get creative with these insect homes, as there are no rules. We’ve even got a hot water bottle, an old jumper and a pair of shoes in ours! Here are a few things you might like to use:
For the internship at PRI Zaytuna Farm, Australia (Winter 2013) each student has the mandate to carry out an independent project. I chose to make an ‘Insect Hotel’ or a ‘Bee Hotel’. This has been given a place on the border between the kitchen garden and the adjacent food forest. On the farm there is a lot of material like bamboo, wood and recycled materials with which to build one. The large kitchen garden has room for a large hotel. An insect hotel is not only a useful object — and one that looks nice — it also provides a fun and creative process for building it.
Why an insect hotel or a bee hotel?
In cold climates, an insect hotel is a hibernation place for insects. In the summer it is a nesting place. An advantage of a hibernation place is that all the insects are in your garden as spring starts. In warm climates the function of the hotel is for nesting and so that insects can find a dry place in the wet season. An optimal habitat for insects in the garden, orchard or food forest stimulates the diversity of insects. The result of diversity is an improvement of the ecological balance in the garden.
A hotel is also an indirect exterminator itself. Insects such as lacewings, hoverfly, ladybugs, beetles and earwigs destroy the lice and mites.
Other insects that are attracted to the hotel are native bees, wasps and bumblebees.
Alternative to the hive
An important aspect of the hotel is attracting insects and native solitary bees. Each climate has its own species of native bees. Native bees are in many aspects not comparable to honey bees — they show different behaviour and they come in different shapes and colours. An example is the Mason Bee (Osmia rufa) that look to nest in cavities in walls, plant stems and dead wood, and we provide this in the insect hotel. The advantage of native bees is that they do not sting in most cases. Most native bees do not give honey either. Solitary bees also destroy the larvae of other insects. Sufficient habitat for native bees gives you more pollination in your garden.
With an insect hotel it is not necessary to have a bee hive. With the current threat of the death of honey bee colonies you can use an insect hotel as a backup for pollination, which native bees can undertake a large portion of. Some species of native bees pollinate certain plants. An example is the Panurgus (Panurgus calcaratus or Panurgus banksianus) that only pollinates hawkweeds (Hieracium caespitosum).
The disappearance of native bees is mainly because certain plants disappear.
Besides insect hotels you can also plant additional flowers. Some specific examples of native bee foods are anise, stonecrop, monarda, catnip, queens and loosestrife herb.
In the subtropics of Australia there is the stingless Trigona bee which can produce approximately one kilo of honey in a year. The Aborigines call this rare honey ‘sugarbag’. For the Trigone you can use a special hive. This is the OATH — the Original Australian Trigona Hive. This small hive has a size of 20 x 10 x 28 cm and has a hole as an opening. The bees make their own round honeycomb in the hive. Read more about native Australian stingless bees on aussiebee.com.au and sugarbag.net.
How to build an insect hotel
There is no standard design for an insect hotel. Just design with your available materials — preferably recycled and natural materials. Be creative with the materials you have. Google ‘insect hotel‘ and you will see numerous examples for inspiration. From production-perfect to natural structures made of wood logs, pallets, bamboo, reeds, stones, tiles and clay in all shapes and sizes. Drill into the logs holes of various sizes, from 3 to 10 mm, in a small oblique angle so that any moisture can run out. Vary hole depths for diversity but don’t drill all the way through. With an open hole there is a chance off draft. It is practical to give the hotel a certain width and height. The depth can be limited to 30 to 40 cm. If you build a large-sized hotel it is important to have shelves and a roof. Small hotels you can build directly into an object like a box.
Find a sheltered spot, with the opening facing the sun in cool climates and facing the morning sun in the tropics and sub-tropics. It is important that you give the hotel a roof against rain so that the wood and reeds stay dry — especially because bees are searching for dry spots. Also make sure the materials are well secured in regards to construction. Do not treat your wood, keep it natural. The use of chemicals will repel insects. A good tip is to first gather the materials before you determine the size of the hotel. You can decorate the hotel with old rusty metal parts like a tin, old tools, wheels, etc.
Some native bees such as Andrena or Sphecidae dig their holes into sand or clay. A wall of clay mixed with sand attracts these bees. You can also add old tin cans or old stone plant pots filled with clay and place it between the logs.
Bamboo and wood will rot in time. You can choose to make a stone foundation or plan for the fact that the hotel will perish eventually. The insects will certainly contribute to this process.
You will soon see that your hotel attracts new residents. Insects will fill the holes with grass, sand, twigs and leaves. Have fun building your own hotel! It is a very useful object in your garden and can be highly aesthetically pleasing.
Video of the process of building the insect hotel:
We cut our bottle down to shape (may I add, that I actually drank 2 litres of fizzy water, especially for this task as we accidentally threw out our last bottle in the recycling?? Argh!)
Check what materials you have and arrange by size and texture – we snapped our twigs to make them a little smaller. Had larger and bigger ones. Arranged pinecones.
Decide on the insect hotel location and add twine for hanging
If you plan to hang your bug hotel, loop some garden twine round and then start layering your bug hotel. We did one hotel for on the ground and one for hanging from a tree to see if would attract different creatures.
Make the insect hotel nice and cozy
Stuff it to make it nice and firm, so it doesn’t get blown about!
So what else can you make your bug hotel from? How can you maybe waterproof it to add additional elements? Check out this great version from 1der.and.cre8 on instagram.
If your kids enjoy observing.. why not give this How to Raise Tadpoles post a go? So fascinating for kids!
Now that you know the basics, let’s look at some inspiration – because there are so many great options to consider and a LOT of great bug hotel design ideas!
We’ve put together a collection of 35 different bug hotel design ideas – so you are sure to find some inspiration here for creating your very own insect hotel from natural and repurposed materials.
These can be found all around the world, in parks, at nature conservation centers, zoos, and yes – especially in people’s backyards. After you see these examples of insect hotels, you are definitely going to be excited to start making your own!
This large bug hotel makes use of pallets and is stuffed with broken pieces of potted plants, pine cones, sticks, straw and more. Definitely looks like an inviting place to live as a bug!
Many of these bug hotels can be quite elaborate!
Many of these can be placed in a number of different spaces and environments – you do not need to have hundreds of acres to learn how to build a bug hotel or enjoy the benefits of insects in your garden!
For example, this picture below shows one that rests against a large brick wall – and how beautiful it is!
There are many different materials you can use for building a bug hotel!
Many of these spaces resemble real buildings and hotels – complete with shingles on the roof!
The idea of making it a hotel is quite popular, and many times you can tell the creators have a very good sense of humor. We love this “No Vacancies” sign shown below.
Some of these can even be quite creative and colorful! Painting the edges of the wood can not only attract bees due to the bright colors, but it can also add a nice decorative touch in the garden.
We love those colorful roofing tiles on this bug hotel shown above. It really adds a lot of character and charm.
In some ways, these can definitely be considered a beautiful and functional work of art in the garden!
Many parks such as in the image below now have started building these mini environments to help with nature and science programs. They can be found all around the world!
This is another great example of the usage of bricks, stone, and concrete in building the different bug hotels and insect habitats to attract beneficial insects into the landscape environment.
Here is another international example of creativity – what a fun idea for nature conservation!
This image shown below is a picture of the insect hotel at the Krakow Zoo in Poland. Our insect friends have a lot of different travel and lodging options all over the world.
This stone wall design is also quite useful and beneficial to different insects!
This beautiful A-frame design above is definitely a welcoming habitat for all sorts of beneficial bees, ladybugs, spiders, lacewings, ground beetles and more!
There are a lot of different ways you can reuse different natural materials to express your creativity – and give these helpful creatures a safe space to live!
These next few insect hotel designs are small and portable – many almost resemble a birdhouse!
This small and compact insect habitat shown above would be very easy to put on a post in any garden! We also love the insect homes built on posts shown in this garden example below!
These definitely are a great thing to see in almost any garden. Not only are they very beneficial, but beautiful as well.
You can also make use of trees as posts – especially if the trees are near your flowering garden beds!
You may have noticed some of these bug houses take advantage of using materials such as chicken wire. While chicken wire won’t attract bugs, it does help keep everything in place.
Chicken wire helps ensure the materials such as leaves and sticks inside stays intact. It still allows for plenty of space for bugs to find their way inside in this creative bug hotel hanging along a tree.
A simple hook is all you need in order to find space to put up a habitable place for beneficial bugs to come into your garden.
The smallest of small can have a home, as shown in this small habitat below.
This photo of a simple wooden bug hotel is proof that size is not an issue! Even the smallest of spaces can be useful for insects to call home!
This clever design to attract solitary bees is a perfect idea for a small and easy portable home to use for attracting beneficial pollinating insects to the garden.
Do you have old birdhouses to reuse? This is a simple and easy to create design to help attract bees to the garden.
This small design can easily be attached to a side wall or garden fence!
Here is another example of a fence mounted insect hotel.
You can mount an insect hotel to almost any type of surface!
This was made with a frame covered with wire to hold the straw and pine cones safely inside.
And just because something is small in size, doesn’t mean you can’t be very creative! Take a look at this adorable bee box hanging below! Definitely very creative!
There are so many great designs and creations here to be inspired by! Whether you are building a bug hotel yourself or tackling it as a community project with friends, family, and neighbors, there are all sorts of options. Just like houses for people – they come in many different shapes and sizes!
I hope you find this inspiring to make your own bug hotel! Have any questions on how to get started? Have you made one? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below!