How to make a bug hotel

Find out how to make an insect-friendly bug hotel that offers bees, lacewings, and solitary wasps a place to nest and spend the winter.

A DIY bug hotel on a tree stump

Why should I make a bug hotel?

Recent decades have seen a steep decline in UK insect populations, which is thought to be related to a fall in the number of pollinators and reduced biodiversity that has far-reaching consequences. A bug hotel offers a nesting and breeding spot for many different insects, and is also a place where they can hibernate. Insects have very specific requirements for their accommodation though; our tips and step-by-step instructions tell you how to build a five-star bug hotel from a log.

A bee on a light purple flower

Making a bug hotel will attract more small but useful creatures to your garden or balcony. As these bug visitors can help to control aphids and pollinate flowers, an insect-friendly approach is also a way to make a personal contribution to protecting and nurturing our flora.

Insects that will use a bug hotel

The type of insects that use your DIY hotel depends on what you make. Materials such as reeds or bamboo tubes are perfect for solitary, masked, plasterer and wild bees, as well as mason, digger, cuckoo and solitary wasps. Be generous with the filling material. 

Use nature-friendly materials

Always use natural materials to make your bug hotel. Remove sharp edges and pointed objects that could damage delicate insect wings. If you are using a log to make your bug hotel, sand off any rough edges to prevent splinters. You also need to make sure that the drilled holes are not too large.

Use wood shavings or pine cones to attract butterflies, caterpillars, ladybirds and earwigs to your bug hotel. Although earwigs enjoy pine cones and wood chips, they are not compatible with bees because they often feed on their nectar stores and sometimes on the larvae of wild bees. So if you want to make a hotel for bees, it’s best not to use pine cones and wood shavings or wood chips.

A DIY bug hotel on a tree stump against a wooden fence

Where should I put my bug hotel?

The best place to install a bug hotel is at least a metre off the ground to protect it from animals and children. 

For best results, the front of your bug hotel should get some direct sunlight, so don’t hang it directly under a roof or tree canopy. Also, think about its surroundings to encourage the right insects to move in: there should be plenty of nectar and pollen-rich plants nearby, so that the insects have access to enough food. Visiting creatures will also appreciate a water supply – a pond, a bird bath or bowl of water can make all the difference.

STIHL professional tip: It’s worth pulling out a compass when deciding where to place your bug hotel. The open side should face south, as this usually keeps the bug hotel warm and means it dries out quickly after rain. Any larvae in the hotel need warmth to hatch in spring.

How to make a bug hotel: instructions and materials

The following instructions explain how to make your own bug hotel from a wooden log.

Committed to your safety: protective equipment

Don't forget - you should always wear personal protective equipment when working with your chainsaw. This includes a cut protection trousers, safety boots, safety glasses, a face shield, gloves, a helmet where there is a rosk of falling objects and ear protection (although you don't need to wear ear protection with many of our cordless chainsaws as they are so quiet). The instruction manual for your product contains more details on this. Fully familiarise yourself with the tool before you use your chainsaw for the first time, and check it is in flawless condition before each use. On request, your local STIHL Approved Dealer will be happy to prepare your tool for its first use, and will also advise you on models and sizes of protective clothing that you can try at your leisure. Please remember that personal protective equipment is no substitute for safe working techniques.

Make a bug hotel: materials and tools

A  STIHL MS 151 C electric chainsaw, wire mesh, roof tiles, pine cones and bark sit on top of three tree stumps

You will need the following materials to make your own bug hotel:

  • Chainsaw, e.g. STIHL MS 170 petrol chainsaw
  • Drill
  • Sawhorse or workbench
  • Wire mesh
  • Pine cones
  • Reeds or bamboo
  • Bark/bark mulch
  • Old roof tiles (optional)
  • Hammer, nails, and fencing staples (U-shaped nails)

How to make a bug hotel: instructions

Summary: how to make a bug hotel

  • A bug hotel provides an ideal breeding and nesting place for bees, wasps and other insects, and is also often used for hibernation.
  • Location and position are key to the success of a bug hotel: it should be at least 1 m above the ground, facing south, and in a sunny spot.
  • When working, always wear personal protective equipment according to operating instructions.
  • To make your own bug hotel, first saw a roof and base from a log.
  • Then saw off a thick slice to make the front face and add recesses for the bug hotel. Use a drill to make holes, and sand down any rough edges with sandpaper.
  • Attach wire mesh to the front of the bug hotel to protect against birds.
  • Fill the recesses with reeds and bark if you want your DIY bug hotel to be a home for bees. 
  • Add pine cones and wood shavings to the recesses if you want it to be an ideal spot for earwigs and ladybirds.
  • After filling a recess, attach the base piece or roof.