Action 273: Build a bug hotel

bug hotelDate: 30 September
Action: 273
Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL


A great garden project for children (aged 5-105)!

Today’s action is about biodiversity; creating a “bug hotel” is a great way of improving insect and minibeast biodiversity in your own back garden and a great way to learn more about the importance of our ecosystems.

What is a bug hotel?

Put simply, it’s a residence for all the small creatures that you can encourage into your garden. Use garden “stuff” to create a multi-storey bug hotel that’s full of all sorts of natural materials, providing hidey-holes for creatures galore. Safe hideaways can be hard for wildlife to find in some gardens, and what better use for all your garden waste and odds and ends?

What to do

This action is based on advice from the RSPB, and you can read the full details and see a video on this page of their website.

If you build your bug and wildlife hotel well and it could shelter anything from hedgehogs to toads, solitary bees to bumblebees, and ladybirds to woodlice.

You can build your bug hotel at any time of year, but natural materials such as straw, dry grass and hollow plant stems are abundant in autumn.

Firstly, choose a suitable site (level, sheltered, and on firm ground) and judge how large your bug hotel will be. You’ll get different residents depending on where you place it – some like cool, damp conditions and others prefer the sun. If you have vegetable beds, keep it a good distance away from them.

Secondly, get together the things you could use to make the hotel, for example:

  • Several old wooden pallets and strips of wood
  • Straw, moss and dry leaves
  • Woodchips
  • Old terracotta pots (don’t use plastic ones)
  • Old roofing tiles
  • Bricks (the kind with holes through them) and/or stones
  • Old logs or large branches
  • Bark
  • Pine cones
  • Sand and soil
  • Hollow bamboo canes and/or dead hollow stems
  • A sheet of roofing felt
  • Whatever else you can find around the garden – preferably natural materials

The basic structure should be a stable framework no more than a metre high! Pallets are perfect for a large hotel as they’re sturdy and come with ready-made gaps. Start by laying some bricks on the ground as sturdy corners. Add three or four layers of wooden pallets on top of your bricks. If you leave larger ends, you’re more likely to attract hedgehogs.

You can make a smaller structure of course, depending on the wood and space you have.

Now it’s time to fill the gaps with your other materials, to provide all sorts of different nooks and crannies, crevices, tunnels and cosy beds. For example you could include:

  • dead wood and loose bark for creepy crawlies like beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice
  • holes and small tubes (not plastic) for solitary bees made out of bamboo, reeds and drilled logs
  • larger holes with stones and tiles, which provide the cool, damp conditions frogs and toads like
  • (if you put it in the centre you’ll give them a frost-free place to spend the winter, and they’ll help eat slugs)
  • dry leaves, sticks or straw for ladybirds and other beetles and bugs
  • corrugated cardboard for lacewings
  • dry leaves which mimic a natural forest floor
  • you can even put a hedgehog box into the base of the hotel!

Add a roof when you think you’ve gone high enough using old roof tiles or planks covered with roofing felt. You could also putting a bit of rubble or gritty soil on top to encourage plants and create a green roof.

If you can, surround your hotel with nectar-rich flowers – essential food for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects.

See the results

Watch out for visitors and how they make the most of their new home. Most activity in your hotel is likely to be after dark in the warmer months, so perhaps go out with a torch to see who is popping in and out.

Why is this important?

Bugs and minibeast, like many species, are having a tough time. Biodiversity, which is essential to us all, is threatened by our concreted world, habitat destruction, the sanitising of our gardens, the use of chemicals and our pollution. A bug hotel is simple, a great way of recycling old garden materials, and provides all kinds of creepy crawlies with somewhere to live.

Take action

Have a look at the RSPB webpage (click on the image below) about building a bug hotel which includes lots of pictures, a video, and some links to more information. Then get kids involved in building one in your garden. They will learn, and your local ecosystem will benefit.

Thank you.

RSPB bug hotel link

Click here to learn more