Last week there was a bit of cabin fever going on in our house. Brooke and I HAD to get out and about. As baby was sleeping, we couldn’t go far so we decided to go out in our garden and ‘look for nature’.

We found moss growing on the path, lots of daddy – long- legs, a teeny tiny snail on a plant and a partially ‘naked’ tree, quickly made fully naked by Brooke as the leaves were way to temptingly loose! Was really cute though as she felt bad afterwards that it was going to get cold so wanted to put the leaves back on!

That 20 minutes or so was all we needed to sort ourselves out and calm down before going back inside to do whatever needed doing next and I have decided to make sure we go ‘outside to look for nature’ every day for at least 20 minutes, no matter what.

With winter coming along quickly now, there wasn’t a lot of nature around so we decided to make a bug house the next day. I based what we did on these pretty drawings and although not beautiful or perfect, they were fun to make and hopefully the bugs won’t mind!

It’s really important to try to provide nature like bugs and nunu’s with places to live over winter. Natural materials are best to use but if there’s nothing available, there are loads of different ways to help them out.

We made two different types and this is how we made them.

1. Cut about 20 pieces of bamboo (15-20cm long). We used garden canes from our beans!2. Bundle sticks together….3 … bundle them together with string and tie a fancy knot to hold it all together (granny knots always work best!)4. Hang it up somewhere safe and cosy, out of the wind for the bugs to do their thing!

The other one:

1. Cut a clean, dry bottle in half. Keep the lid on tight.2. Roll up corrugated cardboard to fit inside the bottle. Secure with paper clips.3. Another granny knot of string to hang it up and it’s done!

There you have it! Two times, hopefully appealing to bugs, bug homes! Easy peasy and good, quick, nature friendly fun, out in the fresh air. A winning activity all round.

Hope this has inspired you – put your pics on the Facebook page please!

How to make a ladybird house

  • 1. Using the scissors, cut the card into five squares (12.5 × 12.5 cm).

  • 2. Join the pieces together with masking tape to make a box shape, with one side open to form the entrance.

  • 3. Decorate the ladybird house with paint and lots of coloured pieces of paper – ladybirds are attracted to light blue, pink and yellow.

  • 4. When the paint is dry, place the house somewhere off the ground so it will stay dry. You might hammer a nail through the bottom to keep it in place, or attach it with twine to a hook. An adult should help with this.

  • 5. Make a water bath (ladybirds spend their entire lives in search of water). A yoghurt lid (very narrow) is good as it needs to be shallow enough to only hold about half the size of the ladybird, but you can also shape one out of aluminium foil.

  • 6. Fill the water bath with water to a low depth and gently place it inside the house.

  • 7. Decorate the inside of the house with rocks and twigs (especially if the twigs already have little mealy bugs attached to them) and leaves. Remember not to make the house too heavy!

  • 8. Cut a small piece of sponge (5–7 cm) and soak it with the fruit nectar or fruit juice. Put this inside the house as well.

  • 9. Spray around plenty of fruit nectar or juice and watch over time as all the little creatures start setting up their new homes.

  • Some of you might think it’s crazy to start thinking about gardening when winter is just getting started, but the opposite couldn’t be more true! When the wind is howling and snow is piling up outside your window, is there any better way to lift your spirits than to think of the warmer weather that’s just a couple of months away, and the amazing garden you can cultivate once it returns? It’s at this time of year that seed catalogs start arriving, and although you can’t dive into the soil or start your seeds just yet (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere!), you can work on some fun DIY projects so they’ll be ready to go as soon as the snow melts.


    Insect hotels are easy to make, can be assembled from all manner of found, recycled, or up-cycled materials, and can provide a cute little home for insect friends for many years to come. These hotels are vital for all manner of wee beasties to find shelter year-round, and are particularly important for winter. Some bee, wasp, ladybug, butterfly, and moth species hibernate over the winter, and safe little homes where they can stay warm and dry until springtime are very appreciated. Each of these species has a different type of home requirement, so depending on which bibites your recipient would like to attract and keep in the garden, you can decide which materials and compartments (apartments?) to create in this amazing bug condo.

    What You’ll Need:

    • A wooden box or open bird house that has an overhanging lip to keep rain/snow out.
    • An assortment of twigs, wood chips, rolled up paper, leaves, or hollow reeds (bamboo works well), thin cardboard tubing, and (if desired), blocks of wood with holes drilled into them.
    • Hot glue gun and glue sticks.
    • Twine or wire to hang the finished hotel, or some type of post on which to elevate it.

    How to Build It:

    If you’re using rolled up leaves or bits of paper, it’s best to pre-roll them tightly and then set them aside for when you need them. The same goes for hollow reeds or bamboo: cut all the sections before you begin so you don’t have to stop and start up again a dozen times.

    Choose a tube and glue it into place in the bottom left- or right-hand corner of your open box/bird house. This is basically the cornerstone for the rest of the tubes.

    Holding the box at an angle, arrange the other tubes around the first one you glued in there, holding them in place as you work. If and when you feel it’s necessary, add a drop or two of hot glue to the bottom of a tube to secure it before settling it in, or between the tubes if you find that they’re not locking together tightly. The tubes should hold one another in place firmly, but shouldn’t be packed in so tightly that they crush one another or impede air circulation.

    It’s good to have a variety of tube sizes available so you can use different thicknesses to fill large or small gaps as they’re created. Varying the sizes also helps different insect species find homes in among the niches.

    You can create a sort of condo hotel by using a large wooden box and alternating the types of filler you have inside of it. If you create sections within the box that have wood bark, wood chips, rolled tubes/hollow reeds, drilled wooden blocks, bundles of sticks, and bunches of straw, you may find that a dozen different species find shelter in there.

    When it comes to drilling “bee holes” in wood, take into consideration the fact that different bee species are drawn to different sizes of holes for shelter and egg-laying:

    • For leafcutter bees, the drilled holes should be 1/4″ wide and 2 1/2 -4″ deep.
    • For mason bees, drill holes that are 6″ deep, 5/16″ wide.

    Try to space holes at least 3/4″ apart, and never drill entirely through the wooden blocks.

    Keeping a bug hotel near your garden ensures that your herbs, veggies, and flowers will never be lacking in pollinators, and you’ll help to contribute to the health of your local ecosystem. Just remember to move slowly and non-threateningly if a group of bees happens to move in so you can avoid getting stung by wary inhabitants defending their new home.

    All photos via

    Build a simple bug house, bug hotel, insect hotel or whatever you want to call it for your backyard! Take Earth science outside and explore the world of insects with a DIY insect hotel. Build your own bug hotel with the kids this season! Add this spring science project to your list and get the kids outside investigating the world of bugs. Pair it with an insect guide and find out which bugs love your insect hotel!

    BUILD A DIY INSECT HOTEL FOR SPRING STEM FOR KIDS!

    GET KIDS OUTDOORS THIS SPRING

    Get ready to add this simple bug hotel activity to your spring STEM lesson plans this season. If you want to learn about the natural world, get kids outside, explore bugs, and do something great for the environment, let’s dig in! While you’re at it, make sure to check out these other fun Spring Science Activities.

    Our science activities and experiments are designed with you, the parent or teacher, in mind! Easy to set up, quick to do, most activities will take only 15 to 30 minutes to complete and are heaps of fun! Plus, our supplies lists usually contain only free or cheap materials you can source from home!

    Looking for easy to print activities, and inexpensive problem-based challenges?

    We have you covered…

    Click below to get your quick and easy STEM challenges.

    WHY ARE INSECT HOTELS BENEFICIAL?

    Even a simple bug hotel can really encourage and support biodiversity in your garden by attracting various insects. A bug house helps to grow the ecosystem around it because it gives a place for bugs to naturally visit! Gardens can really benefit from placing a bug house amongst the plants.

    A bug house or hotel can decrease the need for pesticides because there are many wonderful insects out there that help with this naturally.

    Think of an insect house as real estate for bugs! Many urban areas have removed habitats for beneficial insects that help bring balance to our ecosystem, but a simple bug box can bring them back and give them some place to live.

    INSECT HOUSES CAN:

    • Give back natural habitats in places where they have been removed from heavy landscaping
    • Encourage useful insects to visit so they can help control pests naturally without pesticides
    • Bring back biodiversity to a garden by providing places for inects to live
    • Educate kids on how a balanced ecosystem works (more hand-on Earth Day ideas here)

    Other ways to give back to the environment include making homemade birdseed feeders or homemade seed bombs!

    WHAT SHOULD I PUT IN MY BUG HOTEL?

    The best part of building this house for bugs is gathering the materials. All you need to do is head to the backyard or take a hike to find your insect hotel materials. You will need to get creative with the structure you use to put the materials in.

    You might consider making small compartments using different materials like toilet paper rolls to give the bugs place to live!

    SUPPLIES NEEDED:

    • twigs
    • leaves
    • corrugated cardboard
    • small pots
    • toilet paper rolls
    • wood chips
    • rolled up paper
    • pieces of bark
    • hollowed out branches, reads, or logs

    HOW TO MAKE A DIY INSECT HOTEL:

    STEP 1: First, you need to start with a structure in which you can insert the bug house materials. You will want to consider using something that will withstand the elements. Here, you can see we built a simple wooden box from scrap wood. A pre-made wooden crate will also work.

    What else could you use to make a bug hotel? The size doesn’t matter too much. You could use a planting pot tipped on its side even! How about an old birdhouse with the front removed. Upcycle a wooden drawer or end table even! Cookie tin anyone? There are many possibilities for the insect house structure.

    STEP 2: Gather up your insect hotel materials and start working them into the structure you have selected. Here we added some dollar store mini pots. You can also add some plastic or glass jars or toilet paper rolls to create more mini compartments.

    A big rock can also help break up space. Make sure to give your bug friend little hidey-holes to set up their homes!

    STEP 3: Get creative to fill your bug hotel! You may have to arrange and rearrange the materials several times to find the best layout or to fill the space well. We did!

    Click below to get your quick and easy STEM challenges.

    WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PUT MY BUG HOUSE?

    We put our bug house by our woodpile, but you can also add them to a garden! Find a nice dark place with a bit of shelter. Bugs will prefer damper surroundings but you don’t want your insect hotel to flood either. Look for a hollowed out log and place near it.

    WHAT KIND OF BUG IS THIS IN MY HOUSE?

    Depending on where you live and how big your bug hotel is, the following bugs (insects, spiders, millipedes) may just visit you!

    • beetles
    • ladybugs
    • solitary bees
    • butterflies
    • green lacewings
    • leaf miners
    • whiteflies
    • mole crickets
    • cabbage worms
    • garden spiders
    • millipedes

    CHECK OUT MORE FUN SPRING IDEAS

    • Make birdseed feeder ornaments to hang outside
    • Start a seed jar to learn about parts of a seed and plant
    • Set up nature sensory bin with natural materials
    • Take STEM outdoors with a backyard jungle project
    • Make homemade seed bombs

    EASY TO MAKE BUG HOTEL FOR SPRING SCIENCE/STEM

    Discover more fun and easy science & STEM activities right here. Click on the link or on the image below.

    Looking for easy to print activities, and inexpensive problem-based challenges?

    We have you covered…

    Click below to get your quick and easy STEM challenges.

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    DIY project: Build a ‘Bug Hotel’ to attract beneficial insects

    Beneficial insects are essential for any garden and bugs will naturally find a home under leaves, bark, stacked wood or within your garden beds. A ‘bug hotel’ is an enjoyable way to celebrate your garden helpers, a fun family project and instant garden art.

    Words: Julie Legg

    A ‘bug hotel’ is an enjoyable way to celebrate your garden helpers, a fun family project and instant garden art.

    Using natural materials works best, replicating a natural environment for ladybirds, slaters, bees, butterflies and other creepy crawlies.

    The shelter can be made from upcycling a small wooden drawer, an old letter box or a wooden wine or gift crate, as this project had opted to do. Other insect hotels can be housed in an old car tyre, an aluminum can – virtually anything.

    Make it a household challenge to create a bug hotel with backyard and household items, upcycling and recycle wherever possible: spare pieces of fire wood, offcuts from a previous project, and bedding foraged from the backyard.

    Although a cute touch, it doesn’t need a roof nor internal dividers – your chosen bug hotel bedding can be layered snuggly within the walls of your chosen box and secured in place by the odd patch of glue.

    Dried leaves and moss can be contained by light netting or chicken wire, and carefully stacked ‘bedding’ of twigs and pinecones can form an eclectic informal result.

    Due to the garden materials used, natural decay will be inevitable – a perfect environment for bugs!

    YOU’LL NEED:

    Wooden box
    Spare wood offcuts (fence paling or hardboard is handy)
    Natural garden bedding, such as pinecones, dried grasses, moss, twigs, bark, bamboo canes
    Secateurs
    Saw, hacksaw, clamps, drill and screws
    No More Nails
    Hot glue gun (optional)

    HOW TO:

    1. Select wooden box. If the wood is untreated, best to give it a quick coat of wood stain (water soluble is best for quick drying). Recoats can be applied over time if required. This helps to give the wood longevity in the outdoor elements.

    Step 1.

    2. For effect, create feet and a roof line all in one mighty go: measure and cut fence paling to fit the sides of box, allowing for a 45 degree roof protrusion. Clamp wood in place, then screw or affix with No More Nails.

    Step 2.

    3. Measure, cut and stain spare wood to size to act as a roof.

    Step 3.

    4. Roughly sand edges, then affix in place with No More Nails.

    Step 4.

    5. Measure, cut and stain offcuts that can be placed within the box to create wall dividers.

    Step 5.

    6. Affix with No More Nails.

    Step 6.

    7. Repeat as required until desired dividers are in place.

    Step 7.

    8. Collect a variety of natural ‘bedding’ from the garden.

    Step 8.

    9. Use a hacksaw to cut down bamboo canes to size. Drill holes into the soft centre of the bamboo.

    Step 9.

    10. Stack tightly in one of the dividing cavities. If loose, a dab of glue will help secure them together.

    Step 10.

    11. Fill other cavities with remaining natural bedding.

    Step 11.

    12. For fun, create a ‘vacancy’ sign.

    Step 12.

    13. This project used a soldering iron to create lettering on a spare piece of wood, although a painted sign would be easy and safer for ‘little helping hands’. Drill a hole in the upper corners and affix to the roof line.

    Step 13.

    END RESULT

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    This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine. Discuss This Article

    Bug Box Kit

    Encourage a range of beneficial insects into your garden and have fun making the box at the same time with our new bug box kit.

    The DIY bug boxes provide you with pre-cut panels, nails and screws and simple to follow instructions. No sawing required – all you need is a hammer and a screwdriver and you can enjoy building your own bug box and providing homes, shelter and somewhere safe to hibernate for lots of useful bugs.

    The kit is a great way of introducing children to all the really useful insects that help in the garden from ladybirds to solitary bees and their fascinating life cycles.

    The box is nailed together with the roof attached by a screw to enable the upper compartment to be filled and checked. The kit contains all the parts for the wooden box, and then you’ll need to go foraging to collect and fill the two compartments with somewhere for the insects to live.

    The lower part of the box is designed to be filled with hollow sticks to provide somewhere for solitary bees to lay their eggs. This can be bamboo, hollow sticks (alder is especially good) or stems of other plants. We’ve even seen solitary bees using cut up drinking straws! Once you’ve collected your sticks, cut them to the right length then fill the lower part of the box with the hollow ends pointing outward. Then wait and watch. Solitary bees will lay their eggs in the hollow sticks then seal them up with mud which they collect.

    The upper part of the box is great for providing somewhere dry and protected with lots of crevices for ladybirds and lacewings to tuck themselves away during the winter when they hibernate. Fill the top of the box with something like pine cones, twigs or straw which will give ladybirds and lacewings plenty of places to hide.

    Minibeasts

    Minibeasts are split into three main sub-groups or classifications: arthropods, molluscs and annelids.

    • Arthropods include insects, arachnids (spiders), crustaceans (which have a hard shell or case on the outside) and miriapods (creatures with lots of legs).
    • Molluscs often have a shell like a snail.
    • Annelids are worms.

    Minibeasts can live in most habitats, from dry deserts to lakes. They often live in what are called ‘micro-habitats’, like a stone, a log, a tree or some dead leaves. These might be found in a range of larger habitats, but are often perfect for minibeasts to live in or under. It is very easy to find minibeast habitats as they can and do live almost everywhere. Some people build what are called ‘bug hotels’, built using natural materials to create a micro-habitat.

    Minibeast diets are quite varied and many have highly-designed mouth parts to help them access their food. Some minibeasts feast solely on plant materials while some eat sap and nectar. Other minibeasts eat other insects or even larger dead animals. Many minibeasts eat waste materials and dead matter.

    Minibeasts move in a variety of ways. Some, like water boatmen, are very good at swimming; while many, like bees, flies and dragonflies, have wings which enable them to fly.

    Minibeasts have a varied number of legs – anything from none if you are a snail or slug to perhaps 750 if you are certain species of millipede. Minibeasts use these legs to help them crawl. Some minibeasts even jump – a grasshopper can jump up to 10 times its length when it jumps high, and can jump 20 times its length when it jumps long.

    Minibeasts reproduce in a variety of ways. Many lay eggs which hatch into larvae. Most minibeasts, for example a butterfly, change in form from being young (caterpillar) to an adult (butterfly) – this process is called metamorphosis. Some minibeasts, such as grasshoppers, don’t undergo metamorphosis, but hatch looking very like the adult form and stay the same throughout their life.

    Minibeasts are of great importance to nature for a number of reasons: they are eaten as a food source by birds and other creatures, in the early stages of a food chain; they help to pollinate plants; they are also often decomposers and eat dead and decaying matter, essentially recycling nutrients back into the ecosystem. They also indirectly help us with farming and growing food as many minibeasts eat other minibeasts that would otherwise destroy our crops.

    Humans would not survive without minibeasts, so we need to make sure we take care of them and their habitats.

    Words to know:

    Annelid: a creature that has one main body part that is segmented. Worms and leeches are annelids.
    Arachnid: the scientific name for spiders.
    Arthropod: a large group of creatures which have a segmented body; many jointed legs and an exoskeleton. Insects, spiders, molluscs and myriapods are all arthropods.
    Camouflage: when a creature has specific colourings, shape and texture that allow it to blend into its habitat. Camouflage helps creatures to hide from predators, or enables them to creep up on prey.
    Carnivore: a creature with a meat-based diet.
    Crustacean: most crustaceans have an outer casing or shell; 10 legs or more; and two antennae (e.g. a crab).
    Decomposer: decomposers are creatures that eat dead and decaying matter.
    Habitat: a creature or plant’s natural environment, where it lives.
    Herbivore: a creature that has a plant-based diet
    Insect: a creature with six jointed legs and two eyes. They have two antennae, three body parts and often they have wings.
    Invertebrate: a creature without a backbone.
    Larvae: the very early form of many minibeasts that hatches from an egg. It usually changes into the adult form through metamorphosis.
    Metamorphosis: a process of change that often occurs during a minibeast’s lifecycle (for example, when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly).
    Minibeast: a small creatures without a backbone. Often referred to as invertebrates.
    Mollusc: these creatures have one main body part and may or may not have a shell (for example slugs and snails).
    Myriapod: a creature with ‘many legs’ – this could be anything up to 750 in the case of centipedes or millipedes!
    Spider: eight-legged creatures with two parts to their body (head and thorax joined as one part and their abdomen as a second part). They also have two pincers.

    Topmarks – primary resources, interactive whiteboard resources, and maths and literacy games

    Minibeasts

    An interactive where you explore the body of a ladybird, an ant and a bee. You can rotate and zoom in on the minibeasts and click on hotspots which explain interesting facts about bees, ants and ladybirds. Brilliant in full-screen mode on an IWB.

    Pupils

    Tablet-friendly

    7-11 year olds Minibeasts

    A lovely site about minibeasts. Find out about insects and the life cycle of a butterfly. Look carefully at the creatures to match them to the insect key.

    Teachers, Pupils

    Not tablet-friendly

    5-7 year olds The Minibeast Discovery Pack

    A super activity booklet for 5 to 12 year olds to introduce children to the world of invertebrates (minibeasts). It includes teachers’ notes and worksheets.

    Teachers

    Tablet-friendly

    5-14 year olds Minibeasts by My Learning

    A super site which can help you to understand minibeasts or invertebrates to give them their proper name. It includes an interactive game called Super Bugs, giving you the chance to create your own minibeast.

    Pupils

    Partly tablet-friendly

    8-13 year olds Caterpillar Ordering

    A flexible game for ordering numbers and for number sequences. Fantastic on an interactive whiteboard. Levels range from ordering and sequencing numbers to 5 up to decimals.

    Teachers, Pupils

    Tablet-friendly

    4-11 year olds Galaxy Pugs

    Galaxy Pugs is a Key Stage 1 science game features missions where children learn about plants, animals, materials, the human body, habitats and micro habitats.

    Pupils

    Tablet-friendly

    6-7 year olds Create Your Own Super Bug

    Create your own minibeast by selecting the features of real creatures. A fun learning exercise.

    Pupils

    Not tablet-friendly

    7-11 year olds Primary Languages

    Super primary languages teaching materials in French, German, Spanish and Irish which work well on an interactive whiteboard. The themes are Houses and Homes, Bugs, Birds and Beasts and Whatever the Weather.

    Teachers

    Not tablet-friendly

    7-11 year olds UK Safari

    A site for anyone interested in the wildlife and countryside of Britain. There are photographs, facts and information about many animals and plants found in and around the UK.

    Teachers, Pupils, Parents

    Tablet-friendly

    11-16 year olds RHS Campaign for School Gardening

    Register your school and access advice to create a sustainable garden. You can apply for an award too.

    Teachers

    Partly tablet-friendly

    3-11 year olds 1 2

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