Where bugs like to live
Bugs might not look like particularly significant visitors to your garden, but they’re vital to keeping the ecosystem working. If you want to help them get through the hard times or give them somewhere to breed, provide them with their own place to stay.
Bugs have their own special requirements when they’re looking for a home: somewhere nice and damp, lots of mess and a bit of mould for good measure. There are lots of designs on the theme which will ensure the bugs in your garden can sleep tight through the winter.
One easy design is to take a bundle of bamboo canes or other twigs and tie them together with a piece of string. Hang up the bundle under the branch of a tree or to a railing and the bugs will start to move in. Or you can take a plastic drink bottle, cut off the bottom, make holes in the sides and fill with dead leaves after the autumn fall. Or take an old plant pot, fill with leaves and turn upside down. It might go against instinct but put it somewhere damp rather than somewhere dry.
Different bugs live in different homes
- You can buy artificial homes for bugs which recreate the natural nooks and crannies that often aren’t available in our tidy gardens. Houses for ladybirds and lacewings are commonly available.
- Ladybirds like to hibernate in the nooks and crannies in dead wood, and you can buy artificial homes that mimic this. Ladybirds are particularly important for controlling aphids.
- Lacewings are pretty insects that offer a similar service of pest-control to ladybirds. They don’t make it through the winter as easily though, so give them a chambered box to stay when it’s cold and they’ll have a better chance of waking up in the spring.
- A bunch of twigs, sticks or garden canes makes an effective and simple home for insects. If you hang it high up you might attract red mason bees but bumblebees would rather be on the ground among the undergrowth.
Siting your bug home
- Bug boxes should be in a warm dry place. If the rain can get in, your visitors may drown.
- An insect box takes up little space so you could put one on a balcony or fix it to the wall. You could even secure it to your window box – if it’s not too heavy.
- You can put a bunch of twigs on a balcony, hang them up from a wall, or just leave then in a planted container.
- Make sure your bug home can't be blown away in the wind.
- Bees, butterflies and some other insects sometimes find their way into your house to hibernate – well away from the winter chill! This can mean they wake up when you put the heating on, so if you find one hiding in your house, try moving it to a cool, dark place to encourage it to go back to sleep until spring.