I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
William Wordsworth, Poems in Two Volumes (1807)
Bug hotels or insect hotels – are these the hot new accessory for gardens? This question comes from the house that inaccurately predicted the rise and rise of the garden obelisk a few years ago. These failed to make an appearance in every second garden in this country, as we expected. The insect hotel has a certain rustic and childlike charm and I am sure we will see at least some installations. The trick appears to be the use of a range of different materials to attract hibernating insects, giving them somewhere to over-winter. They need to be located in sheltered positions, out of the wind, rain and direct sunlight.
I liked the optimism in one publication which talked about appealing “to a wide variety of beneficial insects” (italics mine). Unless you are going to set up an audition for all incoming guests, there is no way that you can separate the beneficial ones from their less desirable colleagues. It is highly likely that queen wasps may find it a perfect location for over-wintering. It won’t be all charming ladybirds, damsel flies and dragon flies. There will be a fair number of slaters, earwigs, centipedes and spiders so if the children in your life are squeamish about creepy crawlies, you may want to think again before going too far down the track of this as a child-centred activity.
These constructions are favoured in Britain where there is much more conversation about ecosystems and sustainable gardening than we have here. There is also greater pressure on the environment because of population density. Unless your yard is spartan and manicured to within a centimetre of its life, odds on the bugs will find natural spots of their own as they always have – hedges, leaf litter, wood piles, beneath rocks, sheltered cracks in paving and underneath the house. The only reasons I can see to construct insect hotels are that they can look cute and are an educative tool.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.