Of course an orchard cannot be productive without insects - primarily bees of course to pollenate the trees but also ladybirds, lacewings and other helpful critters who will hopefully provide us with a healthy and eco-balanced environment. To help encourage this microcosm, a bug hotel, the first of several, has now been built - a lovely way to spend an afternoon with a young nephew.
First we gathered together lots of bits and pieces - old canes, broken roof tiles, bits of tubing, empty toilet roll holders, drinking straws, even a bundle of thatch spotted lying in the lane and retrieved, along with a few pallets.
To start we pushed some handfuls of straw and old leaves through the first pallet so that it would make a good nest for any passing hedgehogs. Ive not yet seen one around as yet but live in hope. We then gradually built up the rest of the layers, placing roof tiles and tubing between them, stuffing them with drinking straws, short pieces of cane for solitary bees, bunches of twigs for ladybirds and rolled up corrugated cardboard for lacewings. We had fun digging out the earth-blocked holes in old ventilation bricks that had been uncovered while digging the holes for the orchard trees. They will make terrific homes for invertebrates. William stuffed handfuls of plastic straws into old toilet roll holders and we positioned these in a few gaps.
To finish we topped it with some sedums to attract bees and butterflies.
By the way, there is a ladybird website including a sightings register, which can be found at
http://www.ladybird-survey.org/ladybirds.aspx should you have the urge to learn more about them, and how they help us.