When you look in bushes, under rocks, or anywhere there is grass, there is a good chance you will find small invertebrate animals like; ants, bumblebees, ladybugs, beetles, and worms – commonly known as bugs by many. However, there is a slight taxonomic difference between true bugs and insects.

True bugs and insects

True bugs are a certain type of bug. These animals will undergo a complete metamorphosis during their lifecycle and grow two pairs of wings when they develop into adults. These wing covers are held over the back and often partly folded. They have needle-like mouth parts that they use to take up fluids from plants or animals. There are approximately 40,000 described species of true bugs worldwide (1).

Then there is Hexapoda (Insecta). This is the bigger encompassing group and currently has about 1 million described species which makes it the largest animal phyla on the planet. Their common traits are three segmented body parts and three pairs of jointed legs (2). The five big orders within the group are 1) butterflies and moths 2) beetles 3) ants, bees, wasps 4) true flies 5) true bugs. 

Invertebrate life in your garden

Bugs are vital little creatures that play an important role in the natural environment. All living creatures on Earth need a home and no matter the season, there’s always a bug that needs a home. The good thing is that you can build your own bug hotel which will give bugs somewhere to shelter from predators. Bug hotels can have a positive influence on the bug’s lifespan, support larger numbers and diversity of bugs. So by building a bug hotel, you can help nature a bit (3, 4). Making a bug hotel can be very easy. You don’t need any fancy materials or equipment and it can be very cheap to make a bug hotel. You can find everything in nature. It is best to use a diversity of natural and chemical-free materials, which are the most eco-friendly (4, 5).

So how to get started with your bug hotel?

  1. First of all, you need to find something to give the hotel some structure, to form a base. Wooden pallets or a wooden built house (not treated) and some bricks so that they’re off the ground to avoid decomposition (3).
  1. By using a diversity of materials you can attract a diverse group of bugs. Ladybirds like dry sticks, solitary bees like hollow stems, beetles like bark, for example. Go outside! Try to collect anything that will fit into your house frame. Look for: dry leaves, dead wood, wooden sticks, hollow stems, moss, pine cones, bark, sand, straw, bamboo cane, sand or soil, broken terracotta pots or tiles, bricks, and stones. Try to avoid materials like metal or plastic. Be creative (3).
  1. Fill the house frame with all your collected materials. It doesn’t matter how, there is not one specific way to do it. As long as there are enough small holes, the bugs can hide themselves in (4, 5).
  1. Find a space outside. Maybe in the garden at home or at the park? An area with wildflowers would be ideal, as this might have a higher diversity of bugs. A space that is not too busy, so the bugs feel comfortable using the hotel. Some bugs like cool, damp conditions, while others prefer the sun. So, place it where a part stays in the shadow and a part can get some sun. Be mindful to use a location which has a firm underground and is levelled so the hotel won’t collapse. A good way to secure a stable base of the bug hotel is to place it on a few bricks (4, 5).
  1. Be patient! It can sometimes take a couple of years before the insect residents move in. Take pictures to record what you have done and to follow how it evolves. You can reuse them next time to improve the hotel (3).

Enjoy and good luck!

By Babette Bookelaar

Sources

  1. Smithsonian. (Year unknown) True Bugs (Heteroptera) Available at: https://www.si.edu/spotlight/buginfo/true-bugs (Accessed on 15 January 2022)
  2. Smithsonian. (Year unknown) Bug Info (Heteroptera) Available at: https://www.si.edu/spotlight/buginfo  (Accessed on 15 January 2022)
  3. Donna, Bee Expert
  4. WIldelifeTrusts. (Year Unknown). How to build a bug mansion. Available at: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-bug-mansion (Accessed on 10 September 2022)
  5. RSPB (Year Unknown) Build a bug hotel. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/nature-on-your-doorstep/garden-activities/build-a-bug-hotel/

(Accessed on 10 September 2022)

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