So, here we are, four weeks into our national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And it’s a constant concern for me that so many people are locked indoors, not being able to breathe in fresh air, walk barefoot on the lawn, do some gardening, benefit from some Vitamin D in the Autumn sunrays and find peace within their Souls.
There are so many ways in which we can be part of Nature outside, but at the moment we’re all very restricted. In my previous blogs, “Health Benefits of Plants”, and “Locked Indoors? Go outside!”, I mention the benefits of being outdoors and spending time in the garden.
Today I have another suggestion for you …
It’s the 22nd of April and International Earth Day, so we’re going to build a bug hotel. It’s loads of fun, has natural benefits to your well-being … and gives something back to Nature!
Now, I know you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck is a bug hotel!?” Well, let me explain …
There are many insects around us. Yes, even if you live in an apartment. Insects need places to hibernate, lay their eggs, morph and rest. With all the cities, buildings, street lights, security lights and pollution, insects aren’t always able to find that special nesting spot. So we’re going to provide one for them …
Also, you really do want to encourage insects to be around you and in your space!
– Spiders eat flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches;
– Damselflies also eat mosquitoes and flies;
– Flies assist with decomposition;
– Bees, moths and butterflies aid plants in pollination;
– Ladybugs feast on aphids …
Getting the picture here? We need little bugs in our lives, so we’re going to give something back to them.
Step 1: Hotel Location
The bug hotel needs to be outdoors obviously, but not necessarily in a garden. Even if you have a small verandah or balcony, your bug hotel will work. The more plants in the area, whether on your balcony or in a park across the road, the more successful your hotel will be.
I prefer my bug hotels to be out of the weather as much as possible because I live in an area with a wet Summer climate and cold, frosty Winters. So my bug hotels are positioned on the corner post of my verandah, on the side of my garden swing and under protective branches of a large tree.
You’re wanting to place your bug hotel out of the constant rain, frost and cold wind. Too much shade and too much sun are also not ideal conditions.
Step 2: The Hotel Structure
There’s no need to spend money on a bug hotel. Use what you’ve got: recycle, reuse, repurpose. I was given wooden plant boxes, which I used as the hotel structure. The basic requirements for the structure is that it must be made of natural materials. No plastics, paints, chemicals, bitumen, fuel, etc. The structure also doesn’t need to be large, but this isn’t a prerequisite because if you have the space in a garden, you could become very creative indeed!
Step 3: Ground Floor to Penthouse
Next you’re wanting to divide your hotel into different layers. I prefer to divide mine into equal sizes, but allow your creativity to shine. In each layer you’ll be adding different materials to meet the needs of various insects. The dividing “walls” can simply be pieces of cardboard. Remember, only use natural materials with no nasty-smelling chemicals.
Step 4: The Furnishings!
This is my favourite step! I try to imagine what each insect would like in its room. If you live in a large garden or near a forest or park, the options are unlimited!
– Dried leaves
– Pine cones
– Dry cow dung
– Old bird nests
– Dried flower heads or seed pods
– Dried moss
– Hessian cloth
– Your garden, forest or park has so much to offer!
If you live in an apartment with limited access to natural materials, here are a few suggestions:
– You could find dried leaves tucked away downstairs in a corner of the building;
– Dry out some grass when the garden maintenance mows the lawn or sidewalks;
– Pieces of cardboard from an apple box for example, torn into thin strips;
– Wooden cotton reels;
– Dried flower heads or seed pods you can collect on your way to work;
– Pick up dry sticks/twigs and bits of bark along the road;
– Look under trees as you go for a walk, for a bird’s nest that has fallen to the ground;
– Ask your friends and family for natural materials from their gardens.
IF you have a drill, make small holes of varying sizes in the wood of your bug hotel. These holes will be used by solitary bees for example. If you don’t have a drill and you’re able to find very small bamboo or hollow stems of flowers, these will also offer a safe haven for little bugs.
Step 5: Final Touch
To keep the furnishings from falling out, you’ll need to tie something over it. I find thin chicken wire works best, but I’ve also used string. Use what you have, but don’t block the entrances to the furnishings and tiny nesting holes.
Step 6: Welcome Home!
The final step is to mount the bug hotel in the ideal location you’ve chosen. Ensure it can’t be bumped, tampered with by children or pets, or blown off by the wind. A secure nail should do the trick.
Building a bug hotel isn’t meant to be a science or stress. If it is, you’re not doing it right. This project is designed to give back to Nature, but also to provide your Soul with a moment in time to break away from the worry of daily life, to bring you a chance to be creative and provide you with an opportunity to give back.
“For it is better to give than to receive …”