Build an insect hotel

Insect hotel, bug house, wildlife hotel
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What does an insect hotel have to do with hedgehogs? Well, insects (and particularly beetles) are actually top of the hedgehog diet. Attracting insects into your garden will also help hedgehogs and other wildlife thrive.

Autumn is a great time to build one – when you will be able to forage for plenty of pine cones, twigs and leaves.

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The wild hedgehog diet – with beetles at the No.1 spot!

To build your insect hotel, you will need:

  • Imagination
  • Lots of foraged items
  • Some basic DIY skills
  • Inspiration
  • Plenty of time – it takes longer than you think
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Our finished bug hotel

Insect hotels are all very different so I am not going to give you a step by step guide to how I built mine but, instead, I’m sharing my top tips. You can create yours with a pitched or flat roof, perhaps even with a living roof of plants. If you are looking for a step-by-step guide, you can find one here

The insect hotel built by my husband uses wood from old wooden pallets as a base to create the compartments and the roof slats. He has constructed a hedgehog nesting area underneath by creating a foundation of bricks, built around a cavity. We later filled the cavity with hay. You can fill your insect hotel with all sorts of things but ours included:

  • Plastic drainpipe
  • Bricks
  • Offcuts of wood with holes drilled in
  • Twigs
  • Logs
  • Fruit canes cut into lengths
  • Pine cones
  • Hay
  • Leaves
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We created a base of bricks underneath the hotel and filled it with hay for hibernating hedgehogs

Start by creating a mood board using Pinterest, which is packed with photographs of the insect hotels that other people have created which you can use as inspiration.

Scour freecycle  and gumtree as well as local community pages for free or cheap wooden pallets and wood offcuts (untreated wood). I picked up a large pallet for £1.

If you are hoping to attract solitary bees, the hotel needs to be south facing.

It took part of 3 weekends to create this large insect hotel. It has a front and a back section but we’ve focused on filling the front section so far. It makes a lovely feature when viewed from the kitchen window!

Insects were already taking up occupation before we had finished building, so we know it works…

We created the ‘bug hotel’ sign by engraving the word using a Dremmel tool and then using a soldering iron to turn the letters black.

Don’t forget to share your pictures when you have finished!

If you don’t have time to build a fancy insect hotel, remember that a big pile of logs can also be great for attracting beetles and here are some other great tips for making your garden hedgehog friendly.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about supporting my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com

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Why you shouldn’t feed hedgehogs mealworms

Hedgehogs feeding in garden
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Like many people, I used to feed dried mealworms to my visiting garden hedgehogs. I used to feed them in moderation but I had no idea quite how bad they were for the health of my spiky friends.

I knew that mealworms were to hedgehogs what sweets are to children. If given the choice, they would live on nothing but this junk food. They are highly addictive and hedgehogs will soon choose to consume nothing else.

What I didn’t know though was that mealworms, and probably also foods like peanut kibble and sunflower hearts, actively strip bones of calcium. This is the likely cause of increasing numbers of hedgehogs coming into hedgehog rescues with metabolic bone disease, including Benjamin who was cared for here last year.

Hedgehogs feeding in garden

I used to feed visiting hedgehogs a mix of kitten biscuits and a few mealworms. Now I’ve cut out the mealworms completely.

Please read the article to find out the full reasons why you shouldn’t feed these foods. A good quality kitten or cat biscuit, water and some meaty cat or dog food (non gravy) is all you need to keep your prickly visitors healthy.

You can also help by making your garden insect friendly to ensure there are plenty of beetles and caterpillars – their favourite natural foods. There is plenty of calcium in the exoskeletons of beetles.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. Like all wildlife rescues my work is entirely self funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

How to site your hedgehog box

Hedgehog house
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I’ve made a little video with my top tips on how to site your hedgehog box.

A great read once you’ve bought one or made your own using my guide

I’d love to see your pics and how you get on.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. Like all wildlife rescues, my work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work here

Build a hedgehog feeding station

Hedgehogs feeding in garden
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Want to feed hedgehogs but not your neighbourhood cats? A hedgehog feeding station may well be the answer. It also helps to keep the food and the hedgehog dry when it is raining. Hedgehogs aren’t keen on rain!

There are lots of options for feeding stations. You can buy a ready made one, I use a wooden hedgehog house (see header pic) or you can also build your own very cheaply from a plastic box. Please remember that a feeding station should only be used for food – don’t mix dinner with bed and breakfast. Use a separate hedgehog box to provide a house.

You will need:

  • A plastic storage box with a lid. A minimum of 12″ wide by 18″ (but can be bigger)
  • A stanley knife or strong scissors to cut the hole
  • Measuring tape to measure the size of the hole
  • Strong tape to cover the cut edges of the hole
  • A brick
  • Small but heavy ceramic bowls for food

Building the box

  • Decide whether you want to have the box with the lid on or whether you want to turn the box upside down with the lid underneath.
  • Carefully cut out a hole around 4.5″ square.
  • Tape up the edges of the hole – they may be jagged
  • Line the box with newspaper
  • Put the food at the far end of the box
  • Place a brick on top to help prevent the lid being taken off by a fox/cat
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Feeding station lined with newspaper. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

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Place a brick on top of the box. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

Check the box daily and change the newspaper when it gets dirty. Wash the food bowls regularly to keep them clean.

You can also decrease the risk of cats getting into the feeding station by placing the entrance up against a fence or wall with only a hedgehog sized gap behind it….

If you want to check that your visitor is, in fact, a hedgehog, you can place a non-toxic ink pad at the entrance followed by a white paper lining. You should then be able to spot hedgehog footprints made by the ink….

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Hedgehog footprints. Pic courtesy http://www.hedgehogstreet.org

For suggestions of what food to put in your feeding station please read my blog.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. I make silver jewellery to raise funds to support my work.

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How to sex a hedgehog

male wild hedgehog
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Is my visiting hedgehog a girl or a boy? I’m often asked this question. The challenge of working it out often leads to many just being called ‘Spike’, which I guess works for either…..

There are a few ways you can tell what sex your hedgehog is. The first does depend on the hedgehog being cooperative and uncurling for you. You could also pop it into a see-through box so that you can take a sneaky look from underneath.

A male hedgehog has a large ‘belly-button’ about halfway up its tummy. This isn’t really a belly button but is actually his penile sheath. You can see this clearly in the pic below.

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Alex with his manhood proudly on display

You can tell a female hedgehog because her vulva is directly above her anus. You can see this in the pic below. Although it looks as if she has a protruding part, you will see that there is no gap between it and her anus. If she were a boy, she would have a ‘belly button’ like Alex a couple of cm up in the area of belly that you can see exposed and a gap between that and the anus.

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Female hedgehog

Another way of identifying the sex of your visiting hedgehogs is to observe their behavior. If you aren’t able to catch your visiting hedgehogs physically ‘in the act’ (which makes it very clear which is which!), you are more likely to see hedgehog courtship behaviour. You will certainly hear it! The male will chase and circle the female. The female will be the one being circled around and making the ‘huffing’ sound. This brilliant film featuring David Attenborough shows you everything you need to know and more!

 

Many people wonder if male and female hedgehogs can be identified by their size. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because there are so many other factors influencing the size of a hedgehog including age, nutrition and whether females are pregnant. Like humans, some hedgehogs will naturally be smaller or larger than others and some will eat more or less than others!

Good luck and do let me know how you get on!

Help – I’ve found a hedgehog

Hedgehogs out in daylight need rescue
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Hedgehogs out in the day are in need of help

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and should not be out in the day. A hedgehog out in the day is in urgent need of rescue. Hedgehogs never sunbathe.

Don’t delay, the faster you act, the greater the chance of saving the hedgehog. Speed in getting help is particularly important if the hedgehog is collapsed/not moving or is shaking/wobbling when walking.

What to do.

  1. Pick it up with thick gloves on.
  2. Contain the hedgehog in something with very high sides. Plastic recycling boxes from the Council are excellent. It may climb out of anything with lower sides.
  3. Place it somewhere warm. This is vital if the hedgehog feels cold to the touch or is shaking/wobbling.
  4. Fill a hot water bottle or a leak-proof drinks bottle with hot water.

Don’t use boiling water. Wrap the bottle in an old towel and place it at the bottom of the box. Then place the hedgehog onto the heat and cover it with an old towel or fleece. It is vital to make sure that there is room for the hedgehog to move away from the heat source. Keep checking on the bottle to make sure it is warm – if it gets too cold it will take heat away from the hedgehog.

5. Offer a little dish of meaty cat/dog food and a shallow dish of water.

6. Get some help. Caring for poorly hedgehogs is a specialist task. Don’t be tempted to try and care for it yourself without seeking advice.

If you have found a baby hedgehog/nest of baby hedgehogs do not touch them with bare hands. Always wear gloves. Seek urgent advice before picking up the babies – a hedgehog rescue can advise whether they are likely to have been abandoned or whether mum may come back.

Finding a hedgehog rescue

You can find details of hedgehog/wildlife rescues from the following:

www.helpwildlife.co.uk – the site also has more useful advice on what to do if you find sick/injured wildlife.

Top tip – put the above number into your phone NOW! Do it before you forget – then you will have the number handy if you ever need to find a hedgehog rescue.

A specialist hedgehog rescue is the best option but if you cannot find anyone else and especially if the hedgehog looks to be in pain/injured or is shaking/wobbling, take it to a vet. Most vets will treat wildlife for free.

Hedgehogs feeding in garden

Healthy hedgehogs will only be seen at night

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Top plants for your hedgehog haven

Wildlife gardening
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Help hedgehogs thrive in your garden with this guide to plants that are great for our spiky friends. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t mainly eat slugs. Their favourite foods are beetles and caterpillars. Growing plants to attract insects is therefore one of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs. Plus, you’ll help bees too!

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A garden full of plants looks beautiful and also provides a haven for insects – a hedgehog’s favourite food

As well as providing food and shelter for insects, plants also provide shelter for hedgehogs to forage and nest underneath. The more ground cover the better! Don’t be too tidy – when plants die back in the Winter, keep the remains on the ground to provide Winter hidey holes for insects. Don’t forget fences and walls – cover them with climbing plants and ivy.

Any native plants are good but here are a few plant ideas to get you started.

Wildflowers

  • Field Scabious
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Meadow Cranesbill
  • Red Campion
  • Common Knapweed
  • Wild White Clover

TIP: Many garden centres now offer native wildflowers as plug plants or you can grow them from seed.

Solitary bee on scabious flower

Scabious attracts bees and hoverflies

Wild corner of garden for wildlife

A wild corner left long and featuring Red Campion, Knapweed and Clover

Hedging

Hedges provide a great habitat for a wealth of wildlife including nesting sites and berries for birds. They also provide free access for hedgehogs between gardens, unlike walls and fences. Native species are best:

  • Beech
  • Field maple
  • Hawthorn
  • Geulder Rose
  • Berberis (not native but its flowers are great for insects and its berries for birds)
  • Hazel

Shrubs

  • Alder Buckthorn
  • Goat Willow
  • Dogwood
  • Buddleia
  • Pyracantha
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Buddleia in flower is a magnet for butterflies and other insects

Good luck with your planting and please share your pictures!

Please read my blog for more tips for hedgehog friendly gardening.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York and I am also a keen gardener. All the photos are from my own garden. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work, please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com