Build a bug hotel in four easy steps

Build a bug hotel in four easy steps

Check out here how to check them in at home

While native New Zealand birds require the foliage, nectar and berries of native plants, most species are also omnivorous. This means that insects and invertebrates make up an important part of the diets of the bellbird, grey warbler, tūi, tauhou (waxeye), pīwakawaka and kingfisher.

Setting up a bug hotel in the garden is a way to create a steady supply of food for native residents in our gardens. With the right balance of bugs you can also cut down on other harmful pests too – it’s a win-win!

Start by collecting lots of natural materials from the shed, garage and garden. Things to look for:

  • Leaf litter
  • Sticks
  • Larger logs with holes drilled into them
  • Cardboard rolls e.g. tubes from paper towels or toilet paper
  • Pine needles and twigs
  • Beer crates and other small wooden boxes
  • Old wooden pallets if you’re going big!
  • Bark
  • Moss
  • Wood chips
  • Sand
  • Straw
  • Old terracotta pots
  • Bricks

Once you’ve gathered the building materials, your insect hotel can take shape.

  1. Start by setting out a framework for the structure, ideally using bricks or bigger pieces of wood. Aim for a solid, stable frame. Tip: Wooden pallets or bits of trellis are great here too.
  2. Create ‘storeys’ using larger bits of wood. Don’t worry about making the penthouse better than the rest. From what we can tell, bugs have a different real estate values system than (most) humans.
  3. Fill the gaps with twigs, leaf litter and wood with holes drilled into it. This helps provide a suitable accomodation experience (short term, of course).
  4. Provide some kind of shelter to keep it all dry. They too want a roof over their heads in a downpour.

Consider adding milkweed and stinging nettle near the bug hotel too, as this will attract butterflies.

Spring is a great time to build a bug hotel as insects will be looking for a spot as the weather warms up. Insect populations can be monitored using the ‘five minute count’ method. Just watch the area near your bug hotel for five minutes and keep a tally of all the insects spotted.

Certain native plants also promote insect activity. Help out by planting the following trees and shrubs:

  • Putaputaweta (Carpodetus serratus)
  • Hebes (e.g. korimiko)
  • Native jasmine (Parsonsia heterophylla)
  • Kowhai
  • Coprosma

Also check out our tips on going native for a list of native plants that birds love.

The more insects that call the bug hotel home the more food is available for native garden birds. The food chain is an important thing for all life on earth. So why not add some occupancy space and a suitable concierge service to your creepy-crawly guests?