Why would you want to attract bugs to your garden? What are the benefits of creating a bug hotel?
I have to admit that I have a passion for nature-meaning anything I can do to help it, take care of it, and make cool stuff for it and from it.
That’s why I got interested in this bug hotels that I kept seeing on Pinterest and decided to give it a try. I have a ton of wood boxes that I bought last year that I need to start making plans for before they become a permanent fixture in my backyard (80 wood boxes stacked on a pallet isn’t what I call an interesting back yard feature).
Stacked up wood boxes in need of a project-something that I need to start thinking about.
There are many varieties of bees depending where you live. Their behaviors are very different than the regular bees. Also, not all bees live in colonies and hives. Solitary bees build nests in very small places like stems or holes. Although solitary bees don’t produce honey, they are essential as pollinators of crops and flowers. They won’t hurt you because they are peaceful, docile and very reluctant to sting.
Now, by building one of these bee hotels, in addition to attracting beneficial pollinators to your flower garden and vegetable patch, you’d be helping out by giving these bees a safe habitat and aiding in their declining population.
Our fence literally fell apart last winter so we had to shorten it about a foot. It’s still a nice height though.
Truth be told that I was also looking for a unique fence decor, seeing that we had to shorten the fence because it took a hard hit last winter and redoing it completely wasn’t an option because my budget is exactly $0. That project was the perfect lesson in “reusing” and this bee hotel was also a cool way to reuse some of the many materials I have lying around. I realize that not everyone has an abundance of scrap wood lying around and if one is hard pressed to having to purchase materials for this project, I figure you can make one for about $20.00.
The insect hotels that I have looked at were designed to attract a variety of insects but I think I’ll just stick to solitary bees. The idea of attracting earwigs doesn’t excite me.
So I’ve decided to use a box that I already have on hand and see what I can do with it to attract solitary bees.
Next I collected some left over cedar and pine wood that I had in my scraps and set off designing a bee hotel that would not only be (hopefully) beneficial to my garden and the environment but also an attractive addition to my flower garden and fence!
Before, though, I read up on the general rules of bee hotels. Because there are conflicting views on materials that should be used etc. I decided to take the ones that were logic to me and give it a go. I honestly don’t know if this will actually work so I decided to use the most popular advice and work with those:
In a nutshell, this is what I found as general information:
- Wood has to be untreated and left in its natural state as much as possible. I sanded down the old varnish of the box and left the inside untreated as advised but did paint the exterior to, yes, make it pretty but also to protect it. The same goes for the cedar I used for the roof-I applied a thin coat of Hemp oil on the top but didn’t touch the underside.
- Generally, the materials used inside the bee hotel need to be kept as dry as possible so a roof is strongly suggested.
- Holes have to be as clean as possible and absent of splinters and other hazardous bits that could damage the bee wings when entering the holes to nest.
- Holes should be between 2 mm and 10 mm which translates into 5/16” to 3/8” and should be no deeper than you drill bit length. The holes have to have an “end”.
- And finally, set up your hotel in a nice sunny spot at least 3’ from the ground (about a meter).
So here is the way I built mine.
I started by collecting my materials:
- Wood box that is about 3.5” deep x 17” tall and 7.5” wide
- about 18” of 1 x 5 cedar that you can find in most lumber yards and are usually sold as a fence plank
- about 12” of 1 x 4 pine for the separators
- brown paper bags
- tree branches that I found on a walk through the woods cut in 3.5” lengths
- bamboo stakes that are generally used to hold up plants.
The way you separate your box is up to you and also depends the material you want to put in it. Personally I think it’s easier to fill in when you have more “rooms”.
I attached a roof to my box and created separate rooms to hold the different materials and to make it look cute. The number of compartments depends on how you want it look and it also makes it easier to separate the different materials that one wants to use.
I then compromised and painted the exterior of the box a light blue being careful not to paint any of the inside. I still wanted it to be pleasing to look at..
The next step was filling each section with materials which took longer than what I anticipated (this is the part you want to get your kids involved).
Although, some people choose to drill small holes in the bamboo, I didn’t. I just used it as a filler among the bigger branches. Remember, I don’t know if this will attract any insects so I didn’t want to spend too much time drilling holes in everything.
I cut up some cardboard pieces and filled up a section (that one was quick).
I had small clay pots on hand (yes, I am one of those who has a lot of stuff on hand) and used a few along with coconut moss. I caved in. It attracts earwigs and actually earwigs feed off of aphid pests so I figured I could give them a chance.
And the top part-the attic of the hotel, I cut up some brown paper bags into pieces and rolled them up with the help of a pencil and used clear tape to hold them closed. I made sure that there was enough to prevent things from blowing around or falling out so all materials are pretty snug in their rooms.
The Molson Canadian is not mine but I have to admit rolling up all those tubes would probably be more fun with a glass of wine!
I made sure that all the materials were placed snug in each section so that they don’t blow away or fall down to the ground.
I was really pleased when I hung it up on the fence. I think, if nothing else, it’s great garden décor and also has the potential to be an interesting conversation piece 🙂