I have always been a fan of bug hotels that have been installed through town. I always wanted to create one of my own sometimes, but never found the occasion nor the space for it. And with a baby at home, we somehow agreed that welcoming bugs on our balconies would be something to avoid.
So to compromise between the bee hotels provided by the Canton of Zug and planting flowers and veggies on the balconies, my son and I built the Insektenhotel from Kosmos brand that I found in the toy shop.
I wanted to use this project during the lockdown and an opportunity for learning and building something. We first went to visit the one installed in our community. At this time of the year it was actually accessible - the rest of the year it is generally "protected" by a giant bush of nettles, and as you can see the stones nearby were also covered to settle new plants that would in the future also welcome all the lizards that we now see in the sun.
We discussed materials to be used (wood, bricks, plants, ...), named them in the different languages, discussed their respective purposes, looked into the shapes...Well, we did proper homeschooling 101 talks as long as interest was there. And when rain finally came we built our own.
As you can see the structure is super basic - a fair disappointment for something that cost me 25 CHF in the shop. The central piece under the bamboo sticks was missing, so I improvised one with carton, and the provided materials to squeeze in the holes were not sufficient to fill them entirely. At least the box came with a nice booklet explaining how the hotel should work and describing potential insect species that could come and settle down.
As the other corona-projects we started during confinement, this one has been a total freestyle so we picked some things outside that could become a nest for future guests. But as you can see we are not there yet. The structure itself has been so light that I have had to remove the hotel from its location a few time to prevent it from flying away during the lastest storms.
Needless to say, so far we haven't had any guest yet in our insect hotel, but its doors will remain open all year long. However so many bumblebees have enjoyed the open-bar / free buffet of our balcony garden, first enjoying the raddishes' flowers and now the tomatoes'. So I haven't lost hope in welcoming little buzzy friends.
As I was looking into the different options of insect hotels online, I was approached by Jenn, editor of the website Jen Reviews. The site covers a broad range of topics, from cooking recipes to yoga, sports, and DIY projects, with the aim to provide expert advice on niche topics. Believe it or not, constructing your own insect hotel, DIY-style, is one of the expert topics addressed by one of their sister's website, Happy DIY Home.
The article is pretty straight forward: "How to build a bug hotel" will give you all the necessary information to go ahead, including materials you can use, methods to construct the most welcoming space, and some advice for smaller scale projects.
The pictures in the article are very inspiring - though they present large scale hotels that will surely not fit on my balcony. However I was reassured to see that planting flowers will not only benefit our little insect friends, it will also attract them to get a rest at home. In this regard Happy DIY Home will be your source of information for other related topics, for example to learn more about Companion Planting.