Garden creatures need your help

In our ever-changing environment within the gardening world we seem to forget the importance of our wildlife and their habitat.

The hedgehog, a native animal to the UK is now an endangered species, in fact its disappearing as fast as tigers are worldwide! also many gardens are being enclosed with fencing, which prevents the movement of the hedgehog. The little chaps also need somewhere to live and hibernate in the winter months.

Look at the food we all consume and that we take for granted, such as vegetables, fruit etc. these need cross pollinating by bees and butterflies etc. Did you know in the 1950,s there were around 50 species of bees in the UK and to date there are now only 25…..! The decline is highly likely down to the heavy use of pesticides in farming and domestic use in our gardens.

So what can we do to help all the little creatures in our garden……build a bug hotel is the answer!!

Get the kids involved and build a bug hotel in your garden, it can be done for free or next to no cost at all and you would be giving a much needed home to the bugs and creatures we all need in our garden as well as educating the children.

Go to the woods for twigs, barks, pinecones and small logs. Hunt in skips for old pots and drainpipes etc. (make sure you ask the owner of the skip first, its only rubbish but it’s polite to ask). A builder’s merchant gave us the broken engineering bricks for free when we told them what they were for. Remember use your imagination.

Where to site your bug hotel

Some invertebrates like cool damp conditions while others prefer the sun. To cater for as many of them as possible, site the mansion where some of it will catch the sun but with the rest of it in shade – say partially under a tree or near a hedge. Choose a level, even surface: the hotel may end up fairly heavy, so will need a firm base. Firm level soil will be fine

The basic structure

The basic framework is made of wooden pallets, these can be sourced for free, we got ours from gumtree. The more you can use recycled or reclaimed materials the better. The bug hotel does not need to be more than five pallets high. If you place the bottom pallet upside down, this should create larger openings at the ends, which can be used for a hedgehog house. Although the structure should be stable, you might want to secure each pallet to the one below. you can see from ours we used to [pallets and some recycled slates to create a roof to keep our residents dray and warm

Filling the gaps

For the hedgehog basement, use straw, hay, twigs and garden leaves. This will give them somewhere to burrow into and hibernate nice and safely in the winter months. There are many different ways to fill the gaps in the structure – here are some suggestions.

Dead wood
Dead wood is essential for the larvae of wood-boring beetles, such as the stag beetle. It also supports many fungi, which help break down the woody material. Crevices under the bark hold centipedes and woodlice.

Holes for solitary bees
Hollow stems, such as old bamboo canes, or holes drilled into the ends of logs or blocks of wood, make good nest sites for solitary bees. Holes of different diameters cater for different species. You place canes or hollow plant stems in a length of plastic drainpipe or a section from a plastic drinks bottle.

Straw and hay
This provides many opportunities for invertebrates to burrow in and find safe hibernation sites.

Dry leaves
More homes for a variety of invertebrates; this mimics the litter on the forest floor.

Loose bark peeled from logs
Beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice all lurk beneath the decaying wood and bark.

Toad hole
Although frogs and toads need a pond to breed in, they can spend most of the year out of water. Stone and tiles provide the cool damp conditions they need. The center of the mansion will provide a frost-free place during the winter.

Many garden invertebrates need a safe place to hibernate in through the winter, and cracks and crevices in the mansion are ideal.

Lacewing homes
Lacewings and their larvae consume large numbers of aphids, as well as other garden pests. You can make a home for lacewings by rolling up a piece of corrugated cardboard and putting it in a waterproof cylinder, such as an old lemonade bottle.

Ladybirds and their larvae are champion aphid munchers. The adults hibernate over winter; they need dry sticks or leaves to hide in.

Every spring, queen bumblebees search for a site to build a nest and found a new colony. An upturned flowerpot in a warm sheltered place might be used.

Nectar-producing plants
Why not plant some nectar-rich flowers around your habitat. These provide essential food for butterflies, bees and many other flying insects.

One other thing you can do for hedgehogs is make a hedgehog motorway by creating small entrances through your fence somewhere out of view behind the shrubs and bushes, even use your imagination and come up with something artistic….

For cross pollinators introduce shrubs, trees and perennials that will encourage bees and butterflies etc. to the garden. Please, please try to avoid such nasty pesticides such as Roundup in the garden

Go on build a bug hotel in your garden, its fun, educating and a very friendly thing to do for the wildlife ☺

Send me your pictures of your bug hotels so I can post them on here and my facebook page

I will even come and build your basic structure on a weekend, eve if you are local and may even have pallets to get you under way, contact me for help and advice.

Good luck and remember to have fun ☺