How to make a bug hotel

Small girl with father holding wooden bug and insect hotel against tree in garden

Everyone deserves a break in a comfy hotel from time to time – even bugs! And that’s where a bug hotel comes in. Discover why insect guesthouses are important, and learn how to make a bug hotel yourself with our tips on materials (including the inner tubes of Cushelle toilet roll!) and our step-by-step tutorial.

What does a bug hotel DIY project involve?

Firstly, what is a bug hotel? It’s a purpose-built structure that provides shelter for minibeasts and insects. It has lots of different sections containing various sizes, shapes and textures of natural materials to create nesting and resting areas for a range of bugs. You can buy one ready made, or embark on an insect hotel DIY project and make your own. 

Why is it helpful to make a bug hotel?

When you build a bug hotel you help protect insects and minibeasts from predators by giving them a safe place to hide. They can raise their young there, take shelter, and even hibernate inside it over the winter months.

It doesn’t just help the bugs themselves, either. When you make a bug hotel you’re also providing children with the opportunity to learn about the natural world, observe insects, make a positive difference to the environment, and build a variety of practical skills.

How to make a bug hotel: materials

The beauty of a bug hotel DIY project is that you don’t need to buy lots of things – you’ll find a lot of natural materials in your garden that you can use. Autumn is a great time to make it, but you can create one any time of year. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bricks for the base
  • Wooden pallets/planks for the structure
  • Roof tiles/planks with roofing felt for the roof
  • Loose bark/dead wood/logs: perfect for woodlice, beetles, spiders and centipedes 
  • Dry leaves/straw/sticks: ladybirds, beetles and bugs will like these     
  • Stones/tiles: just what frogs and toads will enjoy 
  • Terracotta pots: some empty and some with sand/straw/leaves, arranged at different angles
  • Corrugated cardboard/pine cones: great for lacewings and ladybirds
  • Bamboo canes, hollow reeds and loo roll tubes: ideal for solitary bees 

Reuse the inner tubes of your Cushelle toilet paper to make a sturdy structure for your bug hotel. If you have a few left over, why not try out some of other toilet roll crafts?

How to build a bug hotel: step-by-step guide

When you build a bug hotel you just need to follow a few steps, and then you can get creative with how you fill it.

  1. Pick the perfect place.

    The most suitable site will be firm and level – and away from your veg patch! Lots of creatures like damp, cool conditions, but some like sun. 

  2. Build the base.

    Small girl with father holding wooden bug and insect hotel against tree in garden

    Lay some bricks along two sides of your site, with a joining line of bricks in the middle (think of it as an ‘H’ shape). Place some dry leaves on the ground to represent a typical forest floor.

  3. Create the structure.

    Small girl with father holding wooden bug and insect hotel against tree in garden

    Place a few layers of wooden pallets on top. If you’re using wood planks, use bricks in each corner to build it up, but keep it under a metre high.

  4. Fill in the gaps.

    Small girl with father holding wooden bug and insect hotel against tree in garden

    Place a range of materials in the pallets/between the planks to create a variety of areas. Think cosy beds, tunnels, crevices, nooks and crannies. Toilet roll tubes make great non-toxic cylinders to hold smaller structures like bamboo tubes or corrugated cardboard in place. 

  5. Finish with a roof.

    Small girl with father holding wooden bug and insect hotel against tree in garden

    Make sure the structure is stable, and then add a roof to keep your bug hotel dry. This could be roof tiles or wooden planks covered in roofing felt. 

Embellishing your bug house: ideas for decoration

Once you’ve created the structure you can stop there, but you might also want to add some extra touches for a bit of fun. Here’s how to make a bug house more interesting to look at:

  • Make little signs out of wood or cardboard to place next to the different sections: ‘Bees Here’; ‘Welcome Home’; ‘Ladybird Lair’; ‘Vacancy/No Vacancy’; etc. 
  • Create a mini doormat for the front out of an offcut
  • Lay a path leading up to it, made out of pebbles or gravel
  • Plant some flowers that are rich with nectar to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. You could even add some of our DIY paper flowers around the top of the bug house for some extra blooms outside flower season!

How to make a bug house part of daily life

Finishing your DIY insect hotel doesn’t mean that’s the end. The kids can visit it on a daily or weekly basis to observe the goings on. They could keep a diary to note the changes over the course of a year. This will help them engage with the seasons, too.

Keep a special kit handy for recording your bug house ideas and observations:

  • Clipboard 
  • Pencil
  • Log book/diary
  • Magnifying glass 
  • Torch
  • Binoculars

Now that you know how to build a bug hotel you can help even more wildlife in your garden by learning how to make a bird house too.

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