When I happened upon this structure on way out of Stowe, during my first English garden-tour in spring 2013, I assumed it was a sculpture. So I snapped this picture. Absolutely gorgeous! Eventually, I learned that the sculpture had a primarily practical purpose: it’s a bug hotel. A “luxury” bug hotel. (And, in England, that’s properly pronounced “loox-ury.”)
On my return to England in spring this year, I discovered more of these beauties:
At this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, I loved the charming demonstration garden by Groundwork, which featured a luxury bug hotel and a plastic bottle shed. (Groundwork is a London-based non-profit that transforms communities by re-connecting people to nature. “Step by step we’ll go on changing places and changing lives until everywhere is vibrant and green, every community is strong enough to shape its own destiny and everyone can reach their potential.”)
Luckily, Groundwork offers a bug hotel how-to guide on its website. As I prepare to build one of my own, here’s what I’ve learned so far:
“In the wild, fallen trees and decaying wood provide fantastic natural homes for all sorts of bugs and wildlife. In our gardens and parks, though, we just don’t provide enough venues for creatures to stay – and many of them are natural little helpers in the garden by eating plant predators. That’s where the bug hotel comes in.
“With the right accommodation, an average garden could hold more than 2,000 different species of insect!”
Bug hotels attract lots of invertebrates (like ladybugs and insects), bumblebees, solitary bees, frogs, and toads.
According to Groundwork, a bug hotel is easy to make by recycling materials already in your yard. You can use: bricks and concrete blocks, wooden pallets, drinking straws, cardboard tubes and corrugated card, straw, hay, dry leaf litter, moss and pine cones, plant pots, plastic and ceramic pipes, roof tiles, hollow bamboo canes, dead hollow stems cut from shrubs, logs drilled with various sized holes, crushed brick and concrete rubble, stones and tiles.
The bug hotel needs to provide lots of different types of rooms (you know: standard, deluxe, king suite . . . ) for different types of guests.
Pieces of dead wood, for example, are used by the larvae of wood-boring beetles (like stag beetles) and fungi. Centipedes and woodlice live under bark. Solitary bees like to nest in hollow bamboo canes or plastic piping. Frogs and toads need cool, damp places to stay, like the crevices between stones or tiles. Insects love to stay in straw or hay or dried leaves filling old pipes. Corrugated cardboard rolled up inside a waterproof tube attracts lacewings. Queen bumblebees start new colonies in upturned flowerpots.
Whatever style hotel you design, whether it’s a Phillippe Starck-style boutique hotel or a Marriott mega-complex, the main thing is to make a lot of nooks and crannies.
“You’ll need to start on a firm, level site in light shade. Most of your future residents prefer moist places, although bees like to be in sunlight. Try putting your hotel next to a hedge or shrubs to help attract your first guests.
“You create a bug hotel layer by layer. Put two parallel lines of bricks, pack in places for bugs to stay in between, then cover with pieces of flat wood. Then repeat. For a larger, more ambitious hotel you can use old wooden pallets, or even unwanted shelves.”
For complete directions, download the how-to guide.