Bug Hotels: What they Are and Why You Should Make Them
If you’re an avid gardener and lover of beneficial critters, then chances are you’ve heard of the bug hotel concept. Along with the common “bee hotel”, bug hotels are human-made structures that offer sanctuary to the kinds of insects that are good for the environment and your garden, such as pollinators and aphid eaters. One of many solutions to declining insect populations, bug hotels are a fun way to attract bugs into your outdoor areas and uphold your local ecosystem.
That said, there are do’s and don’t when it comes to sustainably hosting bug hotels. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about bug hotels and how to make them for yourself!
What Are Bug Hotels?
Bug hotels are essentially homes for bugs such as bees, ladybugs, beetles, and spiders (among others). They’re places where beneficial insects can shelter, lay eggs, and keep out of the way of predators. What bugs you attract will depend on how you construct your hotel and what kind of environment you’re providing. For example, if you build a hotel for bees, you won’t randomly attract a swarm of spiders that you don’t know how to deal with (which would be less than ideal for many).
Bug hotels are an awesome solution to declining urban insect populations, providing a food source for birds, helping the pollination process, and assisting with your soil’s nutrient cycle.
Though you can easily make them yourself at a low cost, many stores now sell insect hotels that vary depending on your needs. Either way you go, there are some key things you should know before you dive into the world of insect hotels so that you don’t end up with dead bugs or a pest infestation.
Also, depending where you live, bug hotels are excellent winter lodging. Though many bugs will burrow into the ground, some appreciate the extra support that bug hotels provide.
Looking to start your own garden? Check out our article all about growing your own vegetables from home!
Why Build a Bug Hotel?
In addition to the above, building bug hotels can be done for specific reasons.
Bees, butterflies, moths, and ants are great for pollination and will aid your flowers and other vegetation. If you’re looking for pest control, then beetles, lacewings, and ladybugs are great insects to attract.
Overall, bug hotels are a great way to sustain a healthy environment and boost your gardens.
How to Attract Bugs & Keep Them Alive
I feel like most people spend their outdoor hours actively trying to escape bugs, but if you’re in the gardening world, then you understand the benefits of attracting the good ones.
As I said above, there are plenty of bug hotel styles that you can purchase in stores. That said, when searching for your ideal bug home, stay away from any “fancy” hotels that include hot glue, treated wood, plastic, seashells, etc. Any unnatural elements in your bug hotel could deter or potentially hurt the insects you’re trying to foster.
Also, when making or purchasing a bug hotel, keep in mind what kind of insects you’re trying to attract.
If you’re trying to attract bees, then keep in mind that garden bees don’t necessarily need hotel rooms (they prefer to burrow in the ground for winter hibernation), though solitary bees like to nest in long stems. These kinds of bees will burrow into a stem with a few others, and then close off the opening with mud for the winter.
Check out this article for a full rundown on how to build and maintain a bee hotel.
If you’re trying to attract ladybugs, then keep in mind that they generally prefer organic plant material. They tend to hibernate in winter in large groups in dry areas such as twigs packed together. They’ll sit in the twigs and eat aphids until the weather becomes suitable for them to venture out into the world again. Check out this article to make an ideal ladybug shelter.
If you’re trying to attract beetles, then it’s time to go log hunting! Beetles love burrowing into decaying wood over long winter stretches (as do woodlice), and they tend to go for small nooks and crannies where they can get by undetected for long periods. Check out this article for how to build a winter home for beetles.
Additionally, when deciding what kind of bug hotel to create, you must understand how bugs work together. Don’t place a predator’s bug hotel by their prey if you’re trying to nurture the prey. Of course, you can’t entirely control the inner workings of bug hotels, but setting them up for success the best you can is paramount in sustainability.
How to Build a Bug Hotel Yourself (For a Low Cost)
To build a general bug hotel, gather materials such as old wood, bricks, loose bark, small wooden or natural tubes (such as tube grass), corrugated cardboard, leaves, twigs, and small wooden boxes. Arrange these items within a larger wooden box (or pile them on the ground), stuff the holes with leaves and other organic matter, and then plop a roof on top using more wood or other natural items.
Then, choose a location. Bug hotels should be placed on even ground out of direct sunlight, and preferably near flowers or other vegetation.
That said, follow the links I placed above to attract and provide ideal environments for specific bugs.
Composting is another great way to support your garden’s nutrient levels and help your local insect population. This article is a great resource for starting to compost at home.
For a great visual on how to build a bug hotel, check out this video by Garden Health!
When to Build a Bug Hotel
Most bug hotels will become very useful in the autumn months when bugs begin to look for shelter over the winter. Set up your bug hotel as the temperature starts to cool, and then give your hotel a cleaning once the bugs move out in the spring.
That’s it for my beginner’s crash course to bug hotels! I hope this gave you a ton of inspiration for starting a bug hotel in your yard or local recreational area. Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below!