An insect hotel is a man made structure created from natural materials, they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the specific purpose or specific insect it is catered to. Most consist of several different sections that provide insects with nesting facilities, particularly during winter, offering shelter or refuge for many types of insects.
Nature does a lot to help our fruits and vegetables along, not least by providing a legion of beneficial insects to pollinate our crops and prey on pests. It’s impossible to quantify just how valuable these creepy crawlies are in keeping things ticking over on the productive plot but suffice to say we’re hugely indebted to them.
Insect hotels provide a home to pollinators and pest controllers. Tidy gardens, lawns and lack of dead wood, mean less and less habitat for wild bees, spiders and ladybugs. These structures can harbor numerous beneficial insects and amphibians. Some creatures like a damp environment while others (like bees) prefer dry. Ladybugs like to hibernate during winter in piles of dry twigs and leaves, which you can provide for them in your insect hotel.
An insect hotel offers free accommodation to its occupants. In return, when it’s time to check out they’ll be right on site to go about their pollination and pest predation – a beautifully symbiotic relationship. The good news is it costs nothing to make an insect hotel, just a little time and effort. Invertebrates aren’t fussy as long as they have got somewhere to bed down and lay their eggs, so you can go as elaborate or simple as your tastes permit.
In addition to nesting sites insect hotels, other habitat resources should be included in gardens. A source of water, overwintering sites, and shelter from the wind are important in attracting a diversity of beneficial insects. Areas of bare ground are critical habitat for many native bees; areas of wet clay provide a resource of mud nest-building predatory wasps and for “mud-puddling” butterflies. Brush and leaf piles, and bunch grasses are all attractive to overwintering insects; trees with loose bark provide winter shelter for butterflies and other insects.
Insect hotels require maintenance for success, as some diseases and pests, such as mites, can build up after a few years. Some hotel builders advocate completely changing the filler materials every two years, or sanitizing drilled wooden blocks. Native bees will appreciate the use of straw liners or rolled-up parchment paper liners in the drilled blocks. Many pest and disease problems can be reduced by making small, disposable homes, but place new ones in the same location for insects that use the same site year after year.