An insect house serves as a nesting site for insects. Particularly vulnerable species – like the wild bees – can settle there to develop and reproduce in a quiet, sheltered space.
Many insects are pollinators and feed on parasites. Thus they are very important for the ecosystem. But modern agriculture and forestry have destroyed many habitats. Dead tree stumps, piles of deadwood and hedges which served as nesting sites have been disposed of.
Furthermore insects have been killed by herbicides and pesticides.
With the construction of an insect house some species can be supported in their continued existence and their struggle for survival.
The aim of the insect house is to foster biodiversity inside the garden and to enhance the activity of the beneficial insects (e.g. pollination of the plants, eating of plant lice). Thus the general quality and health of the garden will be improved. At the same time the need to use pesticides can be reduced.
In the course of the construction the participants can achieve several objectives.
- Many people still have prejudices against insects. These prejudices can be reduced during the construction process and the subsequent maintenance of an insect house.
- The participants acquire knowledge about insects, their ecological importance in general and their role in the garden in particular. During the preparation phase the group members deal with specific topics: which habitats can the garden offer and which insects have which living conditions?
- Much information can be researched on the internet.
- The participants apply and acquire many manual skills.
- During the theoretical and the practical work the participants can extend their vocabulary.
- The necessary team-work enhances the cohesion of a group.
- Information material about insects (in general).
- Information material about the different insect species (pictures of the species, details about living conditions and benefit).
- Material to make a drawing of the insect house (paper, pencil, rubber, ruler, calculator).
- Material for the construction (squared timber, metal sleeves for the foundation, boards, brackets, screws, nails).
- Material to fill the compartments (bricks, straw, reed mats, logs, mud with holes, trunk discs with drilled holes, twigs, bark, pine cones, hollow canes, canes with mud).
- Tools (pencil, folding rule, spirit-level, hand saw, circular saw, drilling machine, sander, screwdriver, hammer, jigsaw, secateurs, scissors, pliers).
IMPORTANT: important: only use untreated wood.
- Paper, pencil.
- Board with an illustration about the insects which have settled down in the insect house.
The activity contains two modules: the preparation and the implementation. For the planning process the participants probably will need a few days. For the construction itself one or two days are at least necessary (the bigger the house, the longer the time).
At the first meeting the participants get an introduction into the topic “insect house”. It is a good idea to present them with pictures and multimedia material.
Then the participants research about the different aspects involved with an insect house. Which conditions are prevailing in the garden (shady or exposed to the sun, vegetation?) Which insects already live there and which insects would they like to establish?
These results will guide the participants to decide where they want to build the insect house, what shape it should be and with which material the compartments should be filled.
In the next step the participants make a scaled drawing and calculate the required materials and tools. They will be able to find many materials in the garden (remains of plants), for others they may have to look in the surrounding area (old bricks, timber) or perhaps they have to buy it (squared timber, boards).
Once the participants have got all materials they can begin to construct the house. They divide the work amongst themselves according to their interests and their abilities (young children shouldn’t use dangerous tools). But at the same time the group has to ensure that the members get the chance to learn new techniques and enhance their skills.
The completion of the insect house is an important milestone in the history of every garden and should be celebrated with an inauguration party.
After some month the participants examine which insects have settled there. In order to demonstrate the purpose of an insect house they can install a board with illustrations about the residents of the house.
At the beginning of the activity the participants write down in keywords if they like insects or not (with a short explanation) and also what they know about insects.
At the end of the activity these question are asked again. Additionally the participants describe which knowledge they have gained and which skills they have acquired.
In order to make the evaluation more relaxed the participants can draw their favourite insect.
Some month after the construction the participants get together to examine which insects have settled in the house. If necessary they can decide whether to change some details of the house.
Every insect house will be unique, because all constructions differ in their shape and the filling material.