Here’s a “twofer” tip for you. Not only is an insect hotel a creative way to upcycle leftover and found materials from the yard, but it also attracts beneficial insects for the garden. Insect hotels are a beacon to a variety of bugs who like to create nest sites and safe harbors.
The term hotel, however, is a misnomer, giving the impression that insects fly in and out, stopping in for an evening or two when the true intent is long-term residents. Providing accommodations for such beneficial insects as ladybugs, butterflies, and earwigs is a long-lived asset to the garden and to the environment. Overall, insect hotels encourage insect pollination.
An insect hotel is a man-made house-like framed structure constructed of stacked pallets, cement blocks, and construction bricks. Key in the frame design is the creation of a series of small cubbies or “rooms” which are filled with bug-friendly materials — dry stones, sticks/twigs, straw, wood wool, cork, even pinecones, and acorns. The little cracks and crevices within these materials cater to a variety of insects and their boarding preferences. Predatory insects are also attracted to insect hotels. Gardeners appreciate predatory insects because they prey on unwanted bugs. Earwigs, for example, are beneficial to fruit trees because they eat plant lice.
Insect hotels create the perfect environment for insects to live and hibernate. Ideally, the hotels should be built in a sunny but protected area, providing a nice warm spot secure from destructive wind and rain as well as predatory birds. Building against a wall or structural backdrop adds extra security and heat (or warmth) but is not completely necessary.
But lest I forget…the construction of an insect hotel is a uniquely satisfying way to upcycle leftover construction materials and/or yard waste. The following is a list of construction and natural materials for your insect hotel:
- Dry stone
- Leftover wood and lumber (cut to size for the frame)
- Tree stumps
- Cement blocks
- Construction bricks with holes
- Tree branches
- Dried bamboo (cut into small, workable pieces and fit into the cubbies)
- Tin cans
- Wood blocks with holes drilled deep enough for insects to burrow, but not drilled through—no tunnels. Holes drilled on a slight angle prevent water from seeping in. These wood blocks are particularly attractive for solitary bees.
- Bundled sticks (tied with string and stuffed into a tin can, open wooden box, or cubby) provide lots of little cavities that ladybugs adore
- Terra-cotta pots (placed upside-down and filled with straw or wood wool) create an environment that earwigs love.
- Large gaps between stacked bricks or roof tiles create a special place for isopods.