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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Insect hotels keep good bugs cozy

Insect hotels are a fun way to attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. (Susan Mulvihill)
Insect hotels are a fun way to attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. (Susan Mulvihill)

Spokane’s newest hotel is open for business – the insect hotel in my garden, that is. Putting out a welcome mat for the bugs in your garden might not be on your list of things to do, but I’m determined to attract more pollinators and beneficial insects in mine.

Insect hotels are one way to do that. I first saw one in a botanical garden in Basel, Switzerland, and loved both the look and purpose of it. They are also referred to as bug hotels, bug banks, bug condos and wildlife stacks.

The concept behind them is to provide cover and certain types of materials to draw in pollinators and good bugs so they will hibernate and nest in your garden. The types of insects they will attract include mason bees, other solitary bees, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, beetles, lacewings, moths and spiders.

If you do a Web search on insect hotels or look for photos of them on Pinterest, you’ll be amazed at the variety of designs out there.

After doing some research and then constructing one, here’s what I’ve learned:

Insect hotels can be any size or shape you want, provided they have a roof to protect insects and the structure from inclement weather. They should face south and be located in full sun. They are most successful when placed near native trees and shrubs, herbs that bloom, wildflowers or other flowers that draw in beneficial insects. Mine is in the vegetable garden, which includes an herb bed and many types of flowers insects are drawn to.

On the Swiss version I saw, they had planted a green roof with succulents which I thought was very appealing. I’m hoping to copy that idea, using volunteer succulents from my garden this season.

To keep costs down and also help the insect hotel blend in with my landscape, I used recycled lumber and other materials. My hotel is constructed from old rough-sawn fence boards and definitely has a rustic look. I placed it on a level surface and secured the back to a metal fence post to keep it from toppling over in strong winds. (I certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of cranky insects on my hands, right?)

Once the insect hotel’s frame was built, I filled it with materials that will draw in the insects. I have to admit this was the most fun part of the project. The accompanying information box has all sorts of suggestions.

I’m considering attaching chicken wire or hardware cloth in front of the sections containing mason bee tubes or other materials woodpeckers might snatch larvae from. I’ve already placed the mason bee tubes a couple of inches back from the front opening as well for added insurance.

This is a great project to involve kids in because it’s an opportunity for them to learn about the insect world. They’ll especially enjoy helping gather materials, filling the insect hotel’s cubbyholes and watching insects come and go.

I’m anxious to see how mine does and had so much fun creating it, I’m already considering making another one for the orchard.

For more information and photos of the construction of my insect hotel, visit my blog at susansinthegarden. blogspot.com.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at inthegarden@live.com or follow her on facebook.com/ susansinthegarden.
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