In the LAND center Byhaven2200, we want to expand the knowledge about diversity and how to achieve it and bring it to the garden. Biodiversity is a key element of sustainable gardening, as it is a passive defense against pests and diseases and a source of beauty.
Building insect hotels is an easy and fun way to provide shelter for invertebrates that might be beneficial for the health of the garden. In addition, they help the survival of species affected by loss of habitat, like for example wild bees.
We developed this project to promote biodiversity and bring the opportunity to preserve unusual species in the city and make people aware of the subject.
The workshop took place in the garden, on the 2nd of August of 2014, from 12:00 to 17:00. It was advertised through a Facebook open event and promoted by Byhaven2200’s profile page in Facebook and mouth to mouth. The whole activity was held in english.
The insect hotel workshop was divided in two parts, theoretical and practical, and was held by Jaime P. Molina, biologist and agronomist with extensive knowledge on insects, and Candela Vargas, biologist as well and experienced in Permaculture practices.
There where 10 participants, 8 of the which were active through both parts of the workshop, while the other 2 participated in the practical but not in the theoretical.
For the construction of the insects hotels we avoided totally the use of manufactured products and used only natural and discarded materials, such as twigs, branches, old pallets, etc., that were upcycled from the garden and brought by the participants.
For the theoretical part, the participants sat at the table and with the help of some graphic cards made by Candela, Jaime and herself explained the basics about beneficial insects in a garden. Focusing on diets and behaviour.
Cards used for the theoretical exercise showing the beneficial microfauna and habitats.
After these explanations, the participants were asked to match the different groups of beneficial invertebrates with their preferred habitats showed in the cards, and justify their answers. Then they were given more detailed information about it.
The ultimate goal of this part was to make the participants feel empathy with those organisms and understand where will they live and thrive.
The explanation consisted of the following steps:
The way to attract microfauna to a garden is by providing them with a food source and a habitat.
A garden needs invertebrates to cover the functions of pollination which ensures the formation of fruits and berries; and as pest control conducted by predators that will balance out the excess of any harmful invertebrates.
Some organisms of our interests are:
– Bees. Are generalist pollinators, wild bees are endangered, they need flowers.
They are most often lonely burrowers.
– Bumblebees. More specific for some plants. Live in small colonies inside tree trunks.
– Butterflies. Are flower specific, depending of the length of their proboscis and the nectar tubes in the flowers.
– Parasitoid wasps. The adult form of many species feed on pollen and help the pollination of some flowers.
We made special focus on learning how to differentiate between bees and wasps, as well as the different behaviors they have and ecological functions they cover. Common wasps are scavengers while wild bees are pollinators.
– Lady bugs. Very specific predators of aphids. The lady bug larvae eats much more voraciously than the adults.
– Parasitoid wasps. Lay their eggs inside the body of other insects. Many types of wasp, and all are very prey specific. It can be larvae of cabbage fly, aphids and so on.
– Tiger beetles. Very active ground predators, will eat any pest that falls from above.
– Earwig. Omnivores and good ecological regulators, as they can adapt their diet according to most available food source.
– Spiders. Generalist predators will either catch flying pests on their net or hunt them on the ground, depending on the species.
– Amphibians. Generalist predators that can take care of bigger problems like slugs.
Jaime and Anders finishing the last details on the big insect hotel.
When people felt comfortable with the knowledge and with most of their questions answered we moved on to the practical part. At this point the participants were excited about the project and willing to get hands on.
We showed some pictures about how insect hotels could look like but still allowing total freedom in the design of the actual ones. Then we sketched the structures we wanted to build for everyone to have a common picture of the building process.
All materials were gathered on and around the working table. It was decided that we had enough material for building three insect hotels, one big and two small. Then we divided into two working teams: one for the major insect hotel and another one for the two small ones.
While some were developing the structure of the different insect hotels others were preparing different habitats, like stuffing straw inside clay tubes, rolling rugs or drilling holes on wood pieces. Afterwards these elements were added into the main structure.
The materials used according to the habitats that we intentionally wanted to create are shown in the following table.
||parasitoid wasps, solitary bees
||Holes and small cavities
||Amphibians and diverse invertebrates
||Protected big cavity
||Cracks and crevices
||Amphibians and tiger beetles
||Solitary bees and tiger beetles
||Furniture (rope and metal)
||Cracks and crevices
||Multitude of cavities
||Amphibians and common water source
||Air, climbing structures
||Humid soil and dry solid surface
||Straw and sticks
||Cracks and insulated cavities
||Ladybugs hibernation shelter
||Wood (lumps and pallets)
||parasitoid wasps, solitary bees
Table showing the different materials used in the construction to form the different habitats and the animals we expect to host.
The construction was toped up with the placement of signs with the words “insect hotel” on them
to make sure that visitors understood the purpose of the unusual structures.
Outcomes of the activity
The garden features now three insect hotels. That are starting to host a significant amount of inhabitants at the current date (23 Oct. 2014).
The participants expressed their satisfaction about being part of such a project and the knowledge gained. Some of them even mention their interest in installing insect hotels on their own gardens.
Lotta finalizing one of the small insect hotels