Bugs or invertebrates such as insects, arachnids, centipedes, molluscs, crustaceans and millipedes are an essential part of any ecosystem including our woodlands. In woodland they help create the leaf litter layer and dead wood which adds essential nutrients into the forest ground layer. Some insects pollinate flowers helping to create productive crops, biodiversity and picturesque woodlands. Some even provide us with honey.
The wonderful birdlife we have in this country thrives due to the large number of insects which are essential food stuff for birds, including our woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers and willow warblers.
Bugs just love little crevices to crawl into for hiding, laying eggs and larvae, keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You may have noticed this when chopping wood for your fire and bits of bark fall off revealing a party of these bugs!!
To help encourage these beneficial bugs, here is a simple project to create a bug hotel using basic materials and tools, taking between 1 and 2 hours. Materials are easily sourced, from your own woodland ideally! It is a really good activity to do with kids of most ages.
- Bow saw (with a green wood blade on if you are sawing freshly cut wood)
- Brace, hand drill or power drill for cheats!
- Drill bits – 8mm and 32mm and 43mm (or basically one small, one medium and one large!)
- One 3-4 inch nail
- A hammer as in the featured image above
- Wood as described below
To make the stand you need a rod of a wood such as hazel, ash or sycamore up to, or slightly bigger than, the size of your thumb. This will need to be about 12 inches, or a foot long (or 30cm if you’re metric only!). Then you will need a log of wood about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) in length and between 4 and 6 inches wide. Birch is ideal as it rots relatively quickly (about 3-4 years) which is great for insects and also looks lovely if you can find a nice silvery one. Finally you need a disc of a wood for the roof which will be slightly wider than your log and up to an inch in width.
To cut these pieces of wood you will need your bow saw. Always wear a glove on the hand that is not holding a saw and if possible use a saw horse. Cut steady and supervise any children at all times (see picture below).
Next put the medium drill bit into your drill. Drill a row of 4 holes along one face of the log, top to bottom
(see two images below).
Now put the smallest drill bit on your drill. Repeat the step above but drilling a smaller hole within the larger hole you previously made. These should be up to a further about ½ an inch (1-2cm) deep.
Now you need to get whittling your rod of wood. Strip the bark off carefully and point the thinnest end. This point does not need to be too sharp, just enough to push the finished item into the ground.
If you are whittling with children you can use a potato peeler to strip bark instead of a knife and wear gloves for safety (see image below).
Once stripped of bark (which makes a nice contrast of wood colours!) you need to put the stand into the bottom of your bug hotel. Choose the bottom and mark the non pointed end of your whittled stick in the middle.. You now need to drill a hole here, about the size of the marking. This hole needs to be about 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) deep (see image below).
One person can hold the wood tightly with the hole pointing upwards and the other can tap the stand into the hole with the point facing up (see image below).
You now need to drill a small hole in your disc of wood (the roof) and then nail it onto the top of your log. It helps to tap the sharp end of the nail before you hammer it to prevent splits in the wood .
Now you have your finished bug hotel! (as below).
You can decorate with some bug stickers if you like – perhaps it will help attract the bugs!
Site your bug hotel into some soft soil (one in the garden border below)
and hopefully a variety of insects will move in (proof they work).