MINI CHALLENGE FOUR

Simone - Picnics and Paddocks is talking about growing Tomato from Northland

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Garden ready!

Our insect hotel is finally complete. We’ve used bamboo, old handy towel rolls, moss, sticks, hay, reeds, pinecone, and an upside down pot etc. Below is some information on why we’ve used these things and who we hope to attract by using these materials. It’s taken a couple of months for Mr 3 and I to complete this project. We’ve constantly posting throughout the challenge about insect hotels and the purpose of attracting beneficial insects. Hopefully we manage to attract the right guys now. We’ve painted it blue, as mentioned in a previous post, to attract bees etc. This project has definitely been a labour of love and I’m super proud of my three year old for coming home from daycare all those weeks ago and inspiring us to create one as a family. 

The brick in our insect hotel is actually pretty special. Years ago there was a brick making place in our little town. The bricks all had ‘Kamo’ printed on them. Now if you manage to get your hands on one it’s a wee bit of a treasure. My lovely yoga teacher gifted me the one you see here in our insect hotel. They’re from the chimney at yoga (an old bungalow). She’s donated the rest to the Hundertwasser Art Centre project here in Whangarei. If you Google it you’ll find out more. It won’t only be a tourist attraction to benefit Whangarei, but the whole of NZ. Anyway, pretty cool to have this little slice of history with my small town name on it. A small yarn worth sharing. 

Here’s a little look back at what we’ve learnt about bug hotels over the past couple of months… 

You can use a wide variety of natural and recycled materials to create an insect hotel. Some examples include: wood, pieces of bamboo, pine cones, old bricks, terracotta pots, bark, moss, straw or hay, chicken wire, corrugated cardboard, cardboard rolls, small logs, dry leaves, sticks, wooden pellets, reeds, stones, clay and tin cans (to hold sticks etc). 

Here is a list of some of the beneficial insects we would love to visit our garden and insect hotel. I’ve also included some tips on how to attract these specific insects. 

Bumble Bees, Honey Bees and Other Native Bees  

Why they’re important: They’re responsible for pollinating a third of all our edible plants. 

How to attract bees to your garden and insect hotel: planting bee friendly flowers in your garden or close to your insect hotel are your best option when it comes to getting bees to visit. Some examples of bee friendly flowers include - Alyssum, Basil, Bee balm, Borage, Cleome, Cornflower, Lupin, Marjoram, Mint, Poppy, Rosemary, Roses, Sage, Scabious, Sunflowers and Thyme. Solitary native bees also love things like pieces of bamboo or cardboard rolls to lay in.

Fun facts – Honey Bees live for about 6-7 weeks during summer. They’re smaller than our NZ Bumble Bees. They can visit up to 100 flowers each trip out of their hive. To make a large jar of honey it takes the nectar of two million flowers!

Hoverflies

Why they’re important: The larvae of a hoverfly eats aphids, thrips and small caterpillars. All of these are pests in our gardens.

How to attract hoverflies to your garden and insect hotel: Hoverflies are attracted to the following flowers – Alyssum, Calendula, Cornflower, Cosmos, Lupin, Marigold, Parsley, Scabious and Sunflowers.

Fun fact – A single larvae can eat up to 60 aphids a day.

Ladybugs

Why they’re important: They eat aphids, soft scale insects, mealy bugs and spider mites.

How to attract ladybugs to your garden and insect hotel: As well as eating pests ladybugs also eat nectar and pollen. It’s also well known that they’re attracted to umbrella shaped flowers e.g. Fennel – when allowed to flower, Coriander – when allowed to flower, Dill – when allowed to flower, Alyssum, Calendula, Cosmos and Yarrow. There definitely won’t be any coriander being grown in our garden any time soon (I can’t stand it haha so we will opt for some of the other options). Dry leaves and twigs also help to create an attractive environment for ladybugs and their larvae. 

Fun fact - not all ladybugs are helpful! Red and black ladybugs, as well as the common metallic blue lady bugs are both helpful. Yellow and black ladybugs can be harmful. They often spread spores of mildew around plants like courgettes, cucumbers and melons.

Spiders

Why they’re important: Spiders are a natural predator in the garden. They help to reduce the numbers of shield bugs, aphids, flies, moths, cabbage white butterflies, and wasps. In doing this they also effectively interrupt breeding cycles.

How to attract spiders to your garden and insect hotel: spiders are attracted to plants with tall stems, boxes, bark, twigs and old pots. All of these are perfect places to either hide or spin a web.

Worms

Why they’re important: digested worm casts produce around 50% more organic matter than the soil surrounding them. They’re also high in important nutrients such asnitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. As they move through the soil they open it up with their tunnels, allowing air and moisture to easily pass through.

How to attract worms to your garden: add new organic matter to your garden every few weeks. Only dig your garden when you really need to. If you choose to dig your garden, opt to use a fork instead of a spade as this will do less damage to the worms.

Fun fact – It’s been estimated that a single worm can produce up to 5kg of worm casts per year.

Praying Mantis

Why they’re important: Although a praying mantis will eat both friends and pests in your garden, it seems that they’re still worth encouraging. A praying mantis will eat aphids, caterpillar eggs, caterpillars, moths, shield bugs, flies and mosquitoes.

How to attract a Praying Mantis to your garden and insect hotel: grow low growing plants such as oregano or thyme to provide protection from predators e.g. birds.

Fun fact – we have two different varieties of Praying Mantis in NZ. Our native Praying Mantis is bright green and can easily be identified by the blue spots on the inside of it’s forelegs. Sadly our native Praying Mantis is being pushed out by a South African Praying Mantis. This Praying Mantis has a narrower neck and can range in colour from light green to brown. It doesn’t have the blue spots on its legs like our native one.

Another welcome addition to encourage these helpful mini beasts are homemade watering stations. Simply fill a shallow dish with small pebbles; then cover the bottom half of the pebbles with water. We plan on adding one of these close to our insect hotel.