Renovating the Bug Hotel

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As it was

A couple of years ago I made a bug hotel as part of a process to attract beneficial insects (predators and pollinators) to come and stay in our backyard. A short time after putting it together I moved it from the North western corner of the yard to a place much more central, next to the choko tree. It has sat there, in front of the wicking beds for quite a while and has shown evidence of use by a number of insects.


However, every so often you get a kernel of information that changes how you look at things. A local program on our ABC – Gardening Australia – featured bug hotels and mentioned something that had not been discussed in any of my previous researches. A bug hotel should be set up between one and two metres off the ground! Considering that mine was not even 10cm off the ground let alone a metre, I needed to do something.


To start with I pulled out all of the different bug habitats and inspected them. Some were tenanted, but the rolled up corrugated cardboard was somewhat squashed and had suffered from the depredations of snails and so would require replacement. Everything else looked pretty much OK, but when I had removed everything to inspect the recycled wooden packing case which I had used as the outer casing I got two unwelcome surprises.


Snail Central


Some of their work!


The first was a crop of rather fat and smug looking redback spiders! Seeing as this was supposed to be a haven for my six legged friends I dispossessed them of their hiding places rapidly and none too gently. The other thing I found was that the bug hotel had become Snail Central! Clearly they were using the protection of the bug hotel as a place to over-winter in (it is still about 2 weeks off the end of winter here at the moment). They too were dispossessed in short order.


Now to elevate the hotel!


My original thought was to apply a couple of brackets onto the side of the wicking beds which the hotel backs up to, but when I felt the weight of the hotel and realised the wicking beds were only 600mm high anyway I realised that was not the way to do it. After considerable rumination I decided the most secure way was to build up a base from besser blocks.


Under construction


Compressed fibreboard


The first thing to do was to set up the bottom row of blocks so they were level using some compressed fibreboard offcuts as shims to level them up and ensure they had as steady footing. The surface of besser blocks tends to be a bit uneven and without the buffering effect of mortar, the block on block construction can be a bit unsteady as they get higher. I wanted things to be moveable if required, hence no mortar. To get around this I cut some compressed fibreboard to the size of my tower, ie a rectangle formed by two blocks sitting inside the two end blocks. This tied the blocks together so they did not get progressively more unsteady as the tower goes up.


With the tower complete, the bottom of the insect hotel is just on the one metre mark above the ground so it seems to have done the job. After going through and re-doing some of the accommodation and adding in some more pithy stems (why do I always say that with a lisp?) the hotel is now ready to be pressed back into service.


Renovations Complete!


After re-doing the hotel I also put together a more effective water source to replace the half full terracotta pot I put in to provide the water originally. Now as we move into spring it will be interesting to see the level of use my improved bug hotel will get!

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