Published on Fri, 01/11/2019 by Nature Conservancy of Canada

Open for business: Making an insect hotel

As temperatures reach below the freezing mark, wildlife seek shelter from the snow and winter. As someone who tends to wait out winter indoors, under a blanket fort with a warm coffee and book in hand, only occasionally bundling up to brave the cold for some time in nature, I can relate to the need to seek dry and warm places from November to March.

Make your backyard or green space open for vacancy by making an insect hotel!

Many species have the same idea, by either migrating south as birds do, or sticking it out by burrowing underground, like chipmunks. But for some of our smallest backyard species, they need our help to find a dwelling that will keep them warm and safe until spring.

Many insects and their relatives, such as ladybugs, wild bees, beetles and spiders, all need a dry place for the winter. Make your backyard or green space open for vacancy by making an insect hotel!

Similar to a bee hotel, an insect hotel helps provide shelter for bugs to hibernate in during the colder months. They can be built big or small and perfectly accommodate smaller urban gardens, such as balconies.

Follow the steps below to create your own insect hotel:

Step one: Determine the size of your hotel

Measure out the spot where you plan to put your hotel. This will help determine how much material you will need to build and fill the hotel.

Step two: Gather your materials

You can either make the structure of your hotel yourself using durable, weather-resistant material, such as wooden planks, or reuse something such as an old wooden box, planters or a few tin cans. I prefer recycling a structure that I have on hand. Once you have your structure, you will need these materials to make the inside of the hotel suitable for insects:

  • Bamboo, wood or hollow sticks
  • Twigs, natural cotton, pine cones, leaves or tree needles
  • Shredded  newspaper

Different species require different types of materials to nest in. For example, bamboo, hollow sticks and drilled wood are great for solitary bees to burrow into and hibernate in until spring comes. Twigs and other materials packed closely together provide ideal habitat for ladybugs to nest in.

Step three: Putting it all together

Pack your structure with the appropriate materials above. To attract beetles, centipedes and spiders, try using dead wood, twigs and loose bark. Bamboo and hollow sticks are great for solitary bees.

To get an idea about the bugs in your backyard, try using iNaturalist.ca. This app can help you identify the species in your backyard through photos taken with your phone. By identifying your guests (the bugs), you can ensure the rooms you built are suitable.

If you can hold the structure upside down without the contents falling out, your hotel is ready to be installed. Hibernating bugs aren’t picky, so the appearance of your hotel isn’t as important as where you put it.

The area around your hotel is important, too. In addition to building a place for insects to nest and winter in, try planting a variety of native flowering plants that bloom at different times of the year. This will help attract pollinators and other species to your garden. Avoid herbicides and pesticides on your plants, especially those near the hotel.

Now it’s time to display your vacancy sign — you’re open for business!

For more ideas on how you can help insects and other wildlife species from the comfort of your own backyard please visit http://www.natureconservancy.ca/

 

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