Common practice for many years has been to eradicate all pests in your garden, so why would you want to build an insect hotel?
Many of us are coming to realise that using nasty chemicals is not the way to go as we look to improve our health. Some of our insect friends are pollinators and predators, so we should make them welcome. When we understand more about our eco system, we begin to discover just how clever nature is and in turn want to welcome these beneficial critters to our garden.
Creating insect hotels is great project for the school holidays and really gets the imagination of a child buzzing. This very simple and easy craft project can be made from a whole range of recycled items you find laying around. The first insect hotel I made included a collection of corks, poppy seed heads and bamboo cuttings. I also used empty toilet rolls and stuffed them with string, plant material and lint from the dryer. I found a small wooden box in the shed and began separating and filling compartments, adding variety and texture. Many of our garden prunings can be used to fill sections of a hotel or even simply strung up together to allow homes for nesting native bees. I’ll give you some examples of who might live where.
Predators that lay their eggs on bark include the family of lacewings, who’s larvae are voracious predators of our insect pests. One of my hotels was visited by a bark mantis who laid it’s ootheca (or egg sac) on a piece of banksia bark.
Many wasps are carnivorous and prey on caterpillars, then provision their nest with the caterpillars to feed to their young. Some wasps look smaller than a fly or may be mistaken for a bee. You may have seen them flying into a small cavity in the wall of your house, as they like to nest in soft mortar. If we take these cues from nature, we can build homes they may like to inhabit. Their presence in our garden is a blessing and biodiversity is certainly something to value.
When you have built an insect hotel it will be important to place it in an appropriate location. I find they generally prefer an area that has some protection from wind and rain, and morning sun is ideal. Verandahs are handy and it is nice to have the insect hotel close by so you can keep a check on who is coming and going. You may also like to provide some shelter from rain if it is out in the open, even an old bin lid can make a great cover.
There are many plants that will attract insects, so placing a hotel in the vicinity of these is a great idea. A few of my favourite plants include daisies, buddleias, calendulas, cosmos, borage and alyssum. Plants that have an umbrella-shape inflorescence like Queen Anne’s lace, carrots and parsley when left to flower are wonderful attractors of beneficial bugs. Our native plants such as flowering gum trees will host a range of native bees too. Don’t forget about adding a shallow container of water, as most insects need moisture as well.
The Wild Pollinator Count is a citizen science project that people like you and I may participate in. It is a great way of sharing information and registering sightings with a national database. For more information go to wildpollinatorcount.com.
You can also find out about registered events for Pollinator Week, 20-27th November 2016, here.
About the author – Faye Arcaro
Faye is a passionate gardener who owns a four-acre Perth property, aptly named ‘Botanic Obsession’. She enjoys sharing her knowledge through writing, radio and TV presenting.