How to Build a Bug Hotel

A bug hotel made of a triangular wooden container filled with sticks.

Building a bug hotel is one method of engaging with nature at its smallest! Create a home for the creepy crawlies in your garden, then sit back and watch as they go about their buggy business.

What is a bug hotel?

A bug hotel is a simple structure designed to attract insects and other kinds of bugs by providing the kind of hidey-holes and nooks and crannies that they like to shelter in.

What is the benefit?

Woman with long brown hair in a purple coat kneeling in the garden among flowers and bushes.

Research shows that connection to nature and outdoor activity is good for everyone, but for people with dementia it has significant wellbeing benefits, including increased sleep, appetite and communication skills, and decreased anxiety, stress and agitation.

Our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing is all impacted by the connection we have to nature. It can calm our stress levels, as well as increase our creativity, empathy, and our sense of wonder, and improve our social interactions and communication. Even small connections with nature can help reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety, and bring significant health benefits.

What is the purpose of a bug hotel?

The purpose of a bug hotel is to help you and the person you care for engage with nature, become familiar with the fascinating creatures that live harmoniously on your doorstep, and provide a friendly place for insects to go about their business in your outside spaces.

It’s a fun activity to do together while simultaneously creating an ongoing pastime for the weeks to come.

Bug hotels can be a wonderful idea for people living with dementia who aren’t able to leave the house. It gives them a reason to go outside every day, even if just for a short time. It could especially be a good motivator on days where leaving the house could be more challenging, such as when the person you care for is feeling very tired or when the temperature outside is particularly hot or cold. Or if your loved one really can’t leave the house and you’ve set your bug hotel up against the outside of a window, it gives them a way to connect with nature from inside.

How do I make a bug hotel?

Step 1

A man and women holding a plant pot together and laughing.

Decide where you would like your bug hotel to live. Those with a garden could encourage walking down to see your bug hotel every day by setting it at the bottom. If you don’t have a garden, or if you care for someone living with dementia who isn’t very mobile, try placing it by the door, or on your porch or balcony. If the person you care for can’t get outside, you can even place your bug hotel up against an outside window — with the window-facing side of the hotel cut out — so that you can look into it from inside the house.

Step 2

Choose your container. A medium-sized cardboard box works very well, but you could also use a shoebox, a wooden box, a big plant pot, or an open birdhouse. Choosing something that is biodegradable is a bonus!

Step 3

Collect natural items and materials to put inside your bug hotel. You can pick things up in your garden, from your local park, the local woods, or anywhere in nature. You could make a day out of collecting the items by going on a trip or taking a walk, or you can keep an eye out for interesting objects whenever you find yourself outside — on your daily walk, on your way to the shops, or during time in the garden.

Some common examples of things you might see and pick up could be:

The inside of a layered but hotel.
  • Conkers or acorns
  • Seeds
  • Pinecones
  • Leaves
  • Twigs
  • Pieces of bark
  • Stones or Pebbles
  • Shells
  • Dried honeycomb
  • Bark
  • Flowers
  • Cardboard tubes (from your toilet or kitchen roll)
  • Feathers
  • Broken plant pots or tiles
  • Bits of wood
  • Small plant pots with holes in the bottom
  • Canes
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Hay or straw

Step 4

Set your container up resting on one of its sides, so that the open side is side-facing rather than upwards-facing. Fill it by stacking your gathered items inside in various different layers. You should start with heavier objects to weigh your hotel down and keep it from toppling over, then use lighter layers the higher you get. 

You can just keep stacking until the bug hotel is full to the top, or you can make it fancy by adding wooden or cardboard ‘floors’ and mesh between your layers.

Step 5

Put your bug hotel in the space you’ve chosen for it, and wait for the bugs to move in! Visit it every day to see what kinds of guests have chosen to inhabit the space you’ve built for them. You could even keep a journal of the kinds of bugs you’ve had to stay and their activities.

Things to watch out for

You’re the best judge of what’s best for the person you support; please bear in mind that sharp objects could pose a risk for some people. When stacking, ensure that you’re distributing weight evenly so that your container doesn’t fall over onto you or the person you’re supporting. Please also beware of and stay away from any poisonous species of plants that are native to your area.

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