Build a Bug Hotel to Bring Pollinators to Your Yard
From cultivating low-impact native plant species to installing rainwater catchment tanks, green roofs, and more, American homeowners are doing their part in the war against climate change, fitting their properties with whatever is necessary to limit environmental strain.
One fairly low-maintenance and—shall we say—unconventional approach to sustainable home landscaping are so-called insect hotels.
What Is an Insect Hotel, Anyway?
We know what you're going to say. As a homeowner, you're constantly trying to get rid of bugs, not invite them for an extended stay on your property.
Well, we hate to burst your bubble, but that whole pollination thing? You know, that thing we depend on for food, that keeps our flowers blooming? The process depends on more than just cute, fuzzy little bumblebees.
A basic definition
Insect hotels are structures—usually built from construction refuse and dry plant matter—that provide a comfortable environment for all of those key insect species to settle down and lay their eggs during the colder months, which ultimately will mean a thriving natural landscape for you when they hatch or exit hibernation mode come spring.
What's more, your visitors will offer protection to your plants by eating up all those pesky, microscopic insects, such as aphids and mites, that you wouldn't be able to get at on your own.
Just one more excuse, in what is by now a long list of excuses, to throw those pesticides in your garage away!
The Insect Species You Want in Your Hotel
Now that we're familiar with the benefits behind the insect hotel, let's dive into what sorts of critters you want to attract to your yard.
Here's a brief, but by no means exhaustive, list of pollinators and pest-murdering species:
- Assassin bugs
- Bees - Solitary Bees, Bumblebees
- Beetles - Ground Beetles, Ladybugs, Wood-boring Beetles
- Praying mantises
Bear in mind, the closer to your green area (or to any high-traffic insect hangout, like a hedge or a pond) that your hotel is, the more your guests will get out of their stay—and the more you'll reap the benefits of their presence, whether it's pest population control or increased pollination rates.
What Materials Entice Them to Stay
Like humans, insects have preferences when it comes to their accommodations.
And again, like humans, insects would prefer for their residences to be weather-proofed; that is, for the dwellings to protect them from extreme cold, and torrential rainstorms that threaten to wash them away—or drown them altogether.
Here are some dwelling preferences organized by species (again, by no means a comprehensive list):
- Bees - Bamboo canes and drilled wood
- Beetles, centipedes, millipedes, & spiders - Rotting logs
- Lacewings, ladybugs, & hoverflies - Dry plant material (grass, stems, sticks, straw, twigs) and rolled cardboard
Other great hotel materials that you could get from your trash, recycling or compost heaps include:
- Cedar or other rot-resistant types of wood
- Glass drink bottles
- Metal and/or plastic pipes
- Shelving planks
- Wood pallets
There's no right way to build an insect hotel, but utilizing these materials will (A) divert waste from landfills and repurpose it for a beneficial purpose, and (B) encourage beneficial insect species to come and hang out on your property for a bit.
Other Perks to Add Around Your Hotel
Outside of the hotel, you might want to consider planting flowers that attract your guests' favorite meals—aphids, for instance, love Shasta daisies and Lupines.
That means a veritable smorgasbord for visiting ladybugs and other pest-controlling species.
In addition to "trap plants" like these, your guests are going to want ready access to a balanced meal of protein (in the form of pollen) and sugar (in the form of nectar). So, whatever you plant, be sure that you've got plenty of flowers nearby to keep your visitors well fed.
Your guests are probably eager to visit, so get to building, budding hoteliers!