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How To Build an Insect Hotel

illustration of an insect hotel

This is a really good activity to invovle your kids. And other people's kids too. Begin by collecting pallets and lots of insect friendly materials.

For years we have made efforts to make our garden as insect friendly as possible. Partly because insects provide food for birds which we like watching, partly because they eat pests (which eat our vegetables), partly because they are essential for pollination (without which there would be no vegetables!) and partly because it makes a garden more interesting. So rotting wood, pollinating bee logs, bumblebee nesters and bug boxes have long been a feature of our garden. Bee houses are a more recent feature.

But since eying an 'insect hotel' or 'wildlife stack' at the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago I realised there was more we could do. And have some fun and re-use some of our pallets at the same time.

All you need is half a dozen same size pallets (any more gets a bit unstable) which you ram with insect friendly materials. My tips are:

  • Fill each pallet before you add the next one. That way you can get at the pallet from the top and fill the centre..
  • The gaps on the base of a pallet are quite wide, which can make it easy for your materials to fall through. Place long pieces of timber, pipes and tubes lengthways to fill the gaps as much as possible. This will make it easier to add small loose items.
  • You will need lots of material to fill the pallets so start saving well in advance. If you want to get stated sooner, take a wheelbarrow around to a few neighbours to see what they are willing to part with.
  • Tubes and pipes rammed with bamboo make attractive nests for solitary bees and are best positioned on the sunny side. If you want a bit of colour, supplement the bamboo with colourful plastic drinking straws. Bright colours can help attract insects.
  • Corrugated paper makes a good home for lacewings (which are voracious aphid eaters). Cut the ends off a few plastic milk cartons or fizzy drink bottles, fill them with the rolled paper and rest in the pallets pointing down slightly so as keep the rain out.
  • Put roof tiles, air bricks or terracotta flower pots at the base on the north side to provide cool, damp conditions for frogs to overwinter.
  • Straw, hay and dry leaves are all popular with invertebrates, and make a good filling for the centre of the pallets