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Bug Hotels

August 19, 2015

Do the children in your setting show excitement and confidence in carefully lifting up and examining every bug they see? Do they love to go searching for insects, magnifying glass in hand?  Then why not build on these interests by discussing and investigating insects with the children. What they do, what they like and where they sleep? What materials could be used to make a nice bed for them to sleep in during the winter?

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Homes for our helpful little creature friends are becoming few and far between with the increase of farming and our ever growing human race. Insects and bugs are vital for our existence so why not offer them a safe and secure dwelling place within your garden which will help them grow, pollinate, exist and also offer a huge learning opportunity for children.

Next – we get to work…

Constructing a Bug Hotel

Together gather any available materials that may be useful for a bug hotel. These may take many different forms, but just use what you already have i.e. pallets, pipes, bricks, twigs, clay pots etc. The best bug hotels will provide many holes and cavities of varying sizes for the insects to inhabit.

Here are some suggestions of materials that may help to make your hotel homely for your visitors:

Dead wood This is perfect for a variety of beetles to eat at dinner time. Place it at the base of the hotel to keep the logs nice and damp. Also add some other decaying plant materials such as old twigs or leaves which will help to welcome centipedes, woodlice and garden spiders.
Holes for Bees The queen bee likes to lay her eggs on top of a mass of pollen and at the end of a hollow tube. She then seals the tube with some mud to protect her eggs. Bamboos sticks or hollow sticks are an ideal location for this new life to blossom. Drilling holes in pieces of wood is also an option, but in order to attract many species of bees it’s important to offer a variety of sizes of holes for shelter and egg laying. Remember, bees aren’t dangerous if they don’t feel threatened. Discuss respecting the bees with the children and explain that if bees feel scared they might sting. If you have fears, try not to pass them onto the children. It is important to try and foster a respectful and caring attitude in the children, towards insects.
Dry Leaves These will help to create a familiar environment for the bugs and insects as dry leaves form the basis of their natural habitat in the forest.  Ladybirds  in particular like their beds to be made of dry sticks and leaves. They need to be very cosy because they will probably stay for the whole winter.
Straw and Hay These materials can create a playground for your visitors. Insects love to burrow in straw and hay and they may even feel safe enough to have a nice nap there. Rolling some dried grass or straw into bundles and then stuffing it into a bottle in the bug hotel will attract lacewings, who are perfect for keeping pests such as mites and lice away.
Pieces of Bark Woodlice and millipedes love to eat and break down bark in the hotel. This is an important part of the garden recycling system.

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Many of the guests may have a particular request for a “cool, damp room” so having the hotel in the semi shade or under a tree would be perfect location. But do remember that bees like the sun, so if you would like them to stay in your hotel one side of the structure will need to be in the sunlight.

If a bug hotel seems like too much trouble, don’t worry, simply having a pile of untouched logs in the garden or leaving some leaves in a particular area helps to create a home for lots of creatures.

Make sure the children are just as involved in this process as you. They may want to use different materials to those listed above, let them be creative and inventive. However, try not to use vegetable or fruit scraps as these may invite some unwelcome guests such as rats or mice.

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Supply the children with magnifying glasses and they will enjoy going to visit their guests in the hotel each day. Spotting bugs may become a game they love to play. New bugs will commonly be discovered and this opens doors to new discussions and learning. Activities such as these will also encourage a growth in their literacy skills as their language will develop alongside their discoveries. Involving the children in the construction of the bug hotel will encourage them to be gentle and caring with the creatures as they will respect their new home and handle it with care.  Include bees and insects in your Pet Policy and discuss it with the parents to ensure they feel comfortable with the possibility of catering to all of the guests.

A bug Hotel would be a fantastic addition to any early years setting.

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