Our Gardens are home to many different creatures, many that busy themselves gathering pollen and nectar or hunting for smaller "beasties", but there are also many that we don't even see until we look very carefully.
We share our garden with a host of creatures that are busy - some in the day and others at night - feeding, breeding, nesting and resting in any bit of suitable habitat they can find.
These are insect species, spiders and some other invertebrates, as well as a few vertebrates (such as lizards, and if we are in the right area, frogs and toads).
Most of our beasties are harmless, or even beneficial for the garden. There are only a very few that will damage our garden plants. In the average sized garden these are normally easy to keep under control without bringing out poisons.
Many of the "good beasties" will even devour these harmful pests if left to their own devices. By providing tiny creatures / "beasties" with habitat we can encourage them to stay and do their good work in our gardens.
A Beastie-Box is a man-made structure designed to create suitable habitat for "mini-beasties". It is filled with all sorts of materials that insects and other small creatures would find good to hide in, so that they can feed, breed, live and feel safe in.
Some creatures rest through winter and this is an ideal place for them to hide if it is safe and warm (not too warm). In summer it gives protection from the hot sun and heavy rain.
Insects and other small creatures have different temperature requirements. Some such as woodlice, millipedes and frogs and toads prefer cool and damp, such as under a tree or under a hedge or shrub. Some creatures such as carpenter bees and lizards like a warmer place.
Either have two boxes or turn one in the shade so that the tube openings get some sun on one side during the day.
A mini-beastie box can be any size, and there are many forms. It can be as simple as a piece of wood with holes drilled into it, to something very elaborate. The pictures shown here are an ideal size for a child's project.
You can replace the corrugated cardboard sheeting that we used with ceramic tiles. The size of our boxes was about 25cm square Masonite boards for top and bottom, and pine supports - about 40 cm tall.
It is best to fill it with a variety of materials. This increases the habitat variety (the kinds of places the creatures will choose to stay). It is best to use organic or recycled goods, or a mixture of both. Here are some suggestions of materials you can use:
Dead wood - very good for the larvae of wood-boring beetles. These help to break down dead wood in the garden and turn it into mulch and the birds think they are delicious. We tend to clear any dead wood from the garden but it is very important to keep some for healthy insect life.
Long hollow tubes - either conduit piping or bamboo - these would be good for the wasps (wasps help keep caterpillars under control) and carpenter bees. There are many solitary bees which lay their eggs in hollow tubes. These bees are excellent pollinators.
Tiles that are separated from each other with pebbles / stones. This is the section amphibians would use if it is in a cool damp place, but away from frost in winter, and lizards would use if it is in a warm, dry place. This should be your first layer at the bottom of the beastie box for amphibians to gain easy access.
Straw, hay or a bunch of wild grasses will make a safe place for many invertebrates to burrow in and make a home.
Dry leaves - like a forest floor will make a good home for creatures such as woodlice which help to keep the soil healthy and birds and amphibians also love to eat them.
Loose bark - Insects, spiders beetles millipedes and centipedes will use this habitat. Millipedes and woodlice are great garden recyclers.
Dry sticks - All sorts of invertebrates will make their home here.
Rolled up pieces of corrugated cardboard. - If put in a waterproof cylinder (pipe) these make a good home for lacewings.
Plant insect-attracting plants near the beastie box to attract insects closer to it. You may find predatory creatures hiding in the beastie box while waiting for unsuspecting insects to visit. Examples of insect attracting plants are Selago species, Gnidia species and Scabiosa species
Give the garden creatures time to investigate and take up residence in the lovely new home you have made for them. The longer you leave it undisturbed the more likely you are to have some interesting inhabitants in your box.
If you do make a welcoming "beastie box" in your garden, we'd love to hear from you or even see pictures of what you discover there in a few months time. Send emails to [email protected]
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