Creating a one-storey apartment or a multi-storey hotel to encourage and shelter the wildlife in your garden can be so easy, as Heather Barron found out when she spoke to the RSPB about building a bug hotel.

SOME gardeners would prefer pristine, well-ordered, gardens to relax in or to potter about - but you can’t have a garden without wildlife.

Birds will want to nest in your trees, worms will want to turn your soil and all manner of bugs will want to live in and feed off your garden.

There’s no getting away from them, so why not encourage them to support the ecosystem and diversity of your open space, and create an interesting talking point at the same time?

Building a bug hotel must be one of the easiest things you can do in your garden, your yard, your rooftop, or even in a window box. The size of the space doesn’t matter, you just have to build the hotel to suit the area.

Why should you build a bug hotel?

Annabel Rushton from the RSPB says: “The recent State of Nature report (a health check on the UK’s wildlife) carried out by 53 nature conservation organisations, including the RSPB, showed that almost 60 per cent of species surveyed have declined over the last 50 years, with a shocking one in ten at risk of disappearing from our shores altogether.

“Among them are some of our most important bugs and creepy crawlies, such as bees and butterflies. This decline can be for a variety of reasons such as pollution, invasive species and the loss of their natural habitat.

“There are lots of small steps that individuals can take to help make a big difference to our threatened wildlife. After all, if you joined all of our gardens together, you would probably have the biggest nature reserve of all!

“One fun and simple activity, that helps to give nature a home, is to build a bug hotel. The beauty of this activity is that you can make it as big or as small as the area available to you. Even if you just have a small balcony or window box, it is possible to build mini bug hotels to fit your space.

“It’s great fun to get children involved in building it, and then explore later on to see which creatures have moved in.”

There’s no great expense involved, and it can be constructed in a very short time – depending on how ambitious you want it to be!

Also known as a wildlife hotel or stack, a well-built hotel doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusively for bugs. It could shelter anything hedgehogs to toads, solitary bees to bumblebees, and ladybirds to woodlice.

You can build it at any time of year, but autumn will provide you with a rich source of natural materials such as dry grass, straw and hollow plant stems.

Ideal materials include any of the following: • Old wooden pallets • Strips of wood • Straw • Moss • Dry leaves • Woodchips • Old terracotta pots • Old roofing tiles • Bricks, preferably those with holes through them • Old logs • Bark • Pine cones • Sand • Soil • Hollow bamboo canes • Dead hollow stems cut from shrubs and herbaceous plants • A sheet of roofing felt • Planks of wood • Whatever else – preferably natural materials – you can find!!

While this is one way of constructing the hotel, but can be easily adapted to suit your own needs.

1. Choose an area of ground that’s level and firm. You’ll get different residents depending on where you place your hotel, as some like cool, damp conditions and others (such as solitary bees) prefer the sun. If you have vegetable beds, keep it a good distance away from them.

2. You will need a strong, stable framework that's no more than a metre high! Old wooden pallets are perfect for a large hotel as they’re sturdy and come with ready-made gaps. Start by laying some bricks on the ground as sturdy corners. Leave some spaces in between the bricks – try creating an H-shape. Add three or four layers of wooden pallets on top of your bricks. If you leave larger ends, you’re more likely to attract hedgehogs.

You can also make a smaller structure, depending on the wood and space you have.

3. The idea is to provide all sorts of different nooks and crannies, crevices, tunnels and cosy beds.

Include: • dead wood and loose bark for creepy crawlies like beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice • holes and small tubes (not plastic) for solitary bees made out of bamboo, reeds and drilled logs • larger holes with stones and tiles, which provide the cool, damp conditions frogs and toads like – if you put it in the centre you’ll give them a frost-free place to spend the winter (they’ll help eat slugs) • dry leaves, sticks or straw for ladybirds (they eat aphids) and other beetles and bugs • corrugated cardboard for lacewings (their larvae eat aphids, too) • dry leaves which mimic a natural forest floor • you can even put a hedgehog box into the base of the hotel 4. When you think you've gone high enough, making sure the stack remains stable, put a roof on to keep it relatively dry. Use old roof tiles or some old planks covered with roofing felt. You could even give it a 'green' or 'brown' roof by putting a bit of rubble or gritty soil on top. Only plants that love dry conditions cope up there, but some wild flower seeds could arrive on the breeze and take root. Surround your hotel with nectar-rich flowers – essential food for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects.

How do bugs help your garden ecosystem?

“Whether you love them or you’re not so keen, our creepy crawlies have a very important job to do,” explains Annabel. “They pollinate our plants to give us food, and they compost our food waste. Some, like ladybirds and spiders, are the gardeners friend, as they eat aphids and flies. Having a variety of different bugs in your garden indicates that you have a healthy eco system.

“Insects, slugs and worms provide food for other wildlife such as birds, hedgehogs and voles. Building a bug hotel for the smallest creatures, means that you are likely to attract these larger animals into your garden as well. You’ll have great fun spotting the different wildlife you draw in and you’ll be giving it a massive helping hand too.”

Lots more ideas for giving nature a home can be found at Not feeling creative? Lots of ways to help insects and other garden wildlife are available to buy from the RSPB website.