This is a wonderful story of one man’s trash, is his daughter’s treasure! Find out how we turned a broken old crate into a wonderful, educational garden sculpture. Here’s how to make a bug hotel.
Unlike most hotels being built in the city, this one won’t require planning permission. And you won’t have to worry about leaky building syndrome, or earthquake strengthening!
In fact, making a bug hotel is easier than you think. And it truely is a great educational tool for the kids. They love going up to the hotel, and poking around, and finding out if any famous bugs have booked in.
We’ve already had some real celebrities book, like the beetles, Christian Slater, bee bee king, Ant and Dec…
What are bug hotels made of? Think outside the ‘box’
So a few weeks ago, we were having a bit of a declutter session at home. And I was about to throw out an old potato box. The side had fallen off (a few times actually), and we’d lost the lid.
It was sitting outside by the front gate, ready to contribute to our slowly disappearing landfills. When my daughter said, ‘Daddy… we should turn that into a bug hotel!’
My trash had literally just become her treasure.
So this is definitely the right place to begin. Take your kids around your house for inspiration and look for an old toy box, a veggie box like ours, a broken storage basket, old drawers, an old microwave etc. And if you can’t find something suitable, then ask your neighbours, or take a look at your local recycling yard.
Now, let’s be clear here. We’re not setting out to make some Insta-fantastic, Pinterest-friendly, artistic garden sculpture here. The idea is NOT to end up with something like this:
Seriously people, I’ve kept chickens housed in structures that aren’t as stable looking as that!
The real trap here is that sometimes when Dad’s start to work on this sort of project with their kids, there’s a real temptation to take over.
That’s understandable. This thing has to actually sit in your garden, so it needs to have some aesthetic value.
But find a happy medium where the kids do most of the creation, and you just help out with the fiddly bits.
It might be best to think of this as a bug house, rather than a bug hotel.
Materials you need to make a bug hotel
To work out what materials you need to make a bug hotel, the out of the box thinking above applies.
You really don’t need to look further than your own yard to find appropriate materials. We found all sorts of useful things around our own yard, some old heater bricks, gravel and mulch, some twigs we broke up, old broken tiles and some bamboo garden stakes in the shed.
The point here is don’t go out and buy materials for your bug hotel. Bugs already live in your yard, you are just providing them a little shelter and a purpose built home.
Here’s a few different materials you could use inside your bug hotel:
- broken crockery
- broken terracotta pots
- stone chips or gravel
- wood chips, bark or mulch
- twigs and sticks
- moss and dry leaves
- corrugated cardboard
- old pipes
Here’s some materials you probably shouldn’t use in your bug house:
- treated timber
- soft plastics
- mouldy timber
- anything that looks like it might leech chemicals
You don’t absolutely need to paint your bug hotel, but it’s lots of fun and you’ll need to apply some sort of finish if you want it to last.
It’s important not to use treated timber of any kind, which means it will rot eventually. To keep your hotel in tip top condition outside, a few coats of Resene Lumbersider or Resene Woodsman stain, will ensure it lasts for years.
This is a great opportunity to get the dropsheets out and give your kids a chance to use larger brushes. Just make sure they have old clothes on…
How do you attract bugs to your bug house?
Like running any hotel, you need good marketing and great customer service!
You need to make sure your hotel has everything in it a bug might need to be comfortable. And that there’s enough local amenities to prevent them from leaving again.
Here’s a few basic tips for attracting bugs to your bug hotel:
- Place your bug house in a warm, sheltered spot, on solid ground
- Provide a few different ‘hotel rooms’ to attract different bug species
- Provide hollow material, like bamboo, to attract solitary bees
- Make sure there is a water source close by
- Place your bug house near by flowering plants and trees
- Try not to use insecticides and other chemicals in your garden
Most of our native bees in New Zealand are solitary bees that live in small holes in the ground. So bamboo in your bug hotel should be a really attractive option for these wonderful pollinators. And if you have native trees in your yard, you already have the nectar available they love!
How to make a bug hotel
You will need
A wooden potato box or similar
Plywood, wood offcuts, or pallets (non treated)
Hammer, nails and glue
Resene Lumbersider paint (our kids choose Wild Yellow and Keppel for the roof and Bunting for the walls)
Big paint brushes
Sticks and stones
Leftover woodchips or mulch
Broken up tiles or terracotta pots
What to do
1. If your box doesn’t have a top like ours, make a roof out of two pieces of plywood, or pallet timber. Use small nails and a little glue to hold.
2. Paint your box using Resene paints for outside. We painted ours in wild Yellow, blue and dark blue. Make sure if the kids are painting you place a large drop sheet down, as this gets very messy! If your kids are as messy as ours you might want to go around with a paintbrush after them and smooth out the drips.
3. Once the paint is dry use bricks and your ply wood, or offcuts, to make different ‘hotel rooms’ for the bugs to live in.
4.Cut the bamboo into smaller lengths using the hacksaw. Once you have enough, bunch them together and tie with a rubberband, or a piece of string or rope.
5. Fill each of your ‘hotel rooms’ with your different materials.