For the Love of Bugs

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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Many of my best ideas come to me while I’m showering off the positive ions each morning. Recently that cleansing solved a problem that’s been hounding me for years—what to do with the old Little Tykes plastic kitchen our children used to play with outdoors. In my mind, I’ve taken it to recycling, donated it to the church, and put it out at the curb in hopes someone would find it worthy of cleaning up. Alas, none of those things happened but my shower cleanse recommended it become the skeleton of an insect hotel.

I dragged the poor thing out of its parking spot and throughly looked it over. Other than being a bit weathered and dirty, it still seemed in sturdy condition. I emptied the accumulated water out of the base, decided which parts I wanted open and erect, then covered it with chicken wire. As I was formulating in the shower, I decided the chicken wire cage would provide structure to wire the branches to as well as give pockets for stuffing.

My next step was to poke around the garage and basement for castoff treasures to use as compartments. I gathered pinecones, gourds with holes, old and broken terra cotta, piano keys, lint, and a suet bird feeder. I also combed the garden and wildlife condominium for sticks and branches.

As you can see above, there is quite a difference between the before and after photos. One of the reasons it took so long to construct our Insect Spa and Rock Garden (as my husband calls it) is that I needed a lot more brush than I expected. This is where pruning out all those weedy volunteer trees around the yard helped out—especially nice since it took care of a dreaded chore in order to do some beloved arting. I affixed the branches with bits of baling wire (also repurposed) from the straw we purchase for mulching the veggie beds.

The photo below shows the lobby of our hotel. Directly back, the suet feeder is packed with lint. This may or may not work out and is easy enough to remove or replace as necessary. As I built I tried to think like an insect and guessed lint might make an interesting home.

We have a multitude of insects already living in our garden and I wanted to create as many new places in this vertical structure as possible. Below the lint, which is nestled in an old crumbling piece of pottery, sits a repurposed silverware drying container filled with a variety of dead stalks from this past season. I loved implementing these pieces that had previously simply laid around gathering dust.

To the left of the above-mentioned is a small compartment that I had assumed would house the suet holder. Unfortunately, the compartment was just a little too small. I went searching for something else and ran across some old piano keys (yes… I do keep a lot of odd things). With minimal effort, I was able to cut these to size and tack them together. There’s a better shot of them in the video linked at the end of this article.

It was important for me to include easy access to water. The sink portion of the kitchen was an obvious choice. I used my ApoxieSculpt® to not only line the sink-turned-spa but also created textured sides and a center wall so any swimmers could easily pull themselves out to safely dry. I also added a sunning rock between the faucet and handle that catches the morning sun.

Other features of our resort include a brick condo section, gourd domiciles, plenty of wooden offerings both vertical and horizontal, along with terra cotta and stone structures. The hotel sits atop an old decaying wooden pallet that I reinforced with bricks and stones. I left small sheltered openings that toads or snakes might find useful since I have seen both in our garden over the years. The same video below also shows many of the elements mentioned here.

Because we have trees and shrubs that require constant pruning maintenance, I’ll undoubtedly have plenty of brush to renew my hotel walls as needed. I’ll be able to fairly easily replace most of the elements if they prove to be a problem or as they naturally decay.

For some great pointers on things to consider for keeping your hotel disease free, visit this informative site. It’s aimed at keeping your bee hotel friendly and disease free. I’m not aiming for bees to move in but if they do I’ll make sure to keep them safe and happy.

I look forward to surreptitiously keeping an eye on the comings and goings come next spring. At the very least, I had a blast building this—replete with my own humor of passersby raising their eyebrows. At most, we’ve added yet another bit of paradise to our garden for our flying and crawling family members.


Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online atHumings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.

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