Having once being a little boy who, by rights, was into all things creepy crawly, and then later in life becoming an avid ecologist and nature lover, I have come to understand the importance of food chains from beginning to end. As a gardener I’ve also come to appreciate that not all that flies, crawls or slithers is necessarily bad for the garden, in fact some are positively essential. Many insects in the garden are not only needed in terms of pollination but are most definitely a gardener’s best friend, acting as a predator to the many ‘nuisance’ pests that plague our crops throughout the growing season.
Whether you operate a spotless, regimented garden, or like me, head for the more naturalistic plantings in both flower beds and vegetable plots, there can never be enough hiding places and hibernation spots for our useful insects, and this is where this quick and easy project comes into play – a homebuilt insect hotel. Its also the ideal time of year to build one!
The project takes approximately an hour to knock together, and ‘knock together’ is the right term for it, the more rough and ready, the better. It’s made from materials you will find languishing in most potting sheds. Mine here is made of an old skirting board, some off cuts from the veg bed edging, old bamboo canes that had seen better days and a couple of roof slates that had come off the house during the recent windy days. And if you have children around, get them involved, my own daughter found a whole new interest when helping me and I wonder if there’s another ecologist in the making!
What you will need
- Old planks, skirting board, pallet wood 200cm x 15cm
- Old bamboo canes
- Old roof slates
Cut the 4 box sides (30cm each) and drill both the ends of two pieces. I’m using an old skirting board I found in the workshop
Screw the four sections together. Don’t worry if its looking a bit rough – the more ‘rustic’, the better!
Cut the centre inserts, one will be 30cm long, the other 30cm minus 2x the width of the wood you used for the outer box. Use a saw to cut the sides of the slot and a chisel to remove the waste
Slot the two centre inserts together and insert them into the box frame. The fit should be snug and may need a mallet to knock it into place
Hold the centre inserts in place by drilling and screwing through the outer box. Again don’t worry about how rough things might be looking
Cut lengths of bamboo approximately to the depth of the box and pack them into one of the sections. Use a mallet to ensure a tight fit
Stuff the next door section with some straw before then filling the opposite cell with further bamboo off cuts
Before filling the final section attach the box to a wall, fence or side of a shed. A hook or mirror fixing can be used
Deploy a small person with a hammer to break up some roof slates (my kids loved this bit!). Keeping the pieces reasonably large, stack them into the remaining empty section
And there you are, one hour, one plank, one pile of rubbish, one fine insect hideaway.