Housing for the urban fauna

Many architects and even landscape planners don't know much about insects and birds. Nevertheless the urban landscape is not only the place to be for the human species but also for trees, plants and theirs successors, that means for flora and fauna. It is a fact: if you say 'flora' you cannot exclude 'fauna'. Fauna is even essential to 'flora'. That means: no green without insects, and no insects without birds... But where do they live? Wildlife in the urban area settles overall. But by our modern, hermetically closed buildings we create a housing shortage. We have to add additional housing for bees, butterflies, birds and others.
In the article 'Bird hotels' the artist Hans Eijkenboom shows how we can combine our love for art and green and birds and bees. He creates artwork which fulfills at the same time the role of hotels for other species than ours.
There are also grass root variations to this idea, simple to build, easy to integrate in gardens and parks - a challenge for school classes and residents to work on their urban environment: a design element which should be integrated in the repertoire of architects and landscape designers who go for environment en participation with residents..
We found such a nice manual how to build a habitat among the advices of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. 

Building an Invertebrate Habitat

Our gardens are home to a wide range of living creatures. An average garden could hold over 2,000different species of invertebrate. Many of these are very small, so are often over-looked. With all thisdiversity of life it is good to know that very few creatures cause significant damage to our prized flowers,fruit and vegetables, the ones that gardeners call pests. Even better, there are many more creaturesthat help us control the pests.

By providing the right habitats we can greatly increase the number of beneficial insects in the garden.

Some wild invertebrates, such as bumblebees and solitary bees, are declining in numbers in the widercountryside, so by providing homes we can contribute to their conservation. At the 2005 RHS Tatton Park Flower Show we exhibited a garden habitat designed to be a home for awide range of invertebrates (and a couple of vertebrates).

Our Habitat was built entirely from recycled materials. The main structure was discarded pallets, and much of the additional wood was the product of routine woodland management operations. This sheet tells you how to build a similar habitat, but if this is too ambitious there are plenty of ideaswhich can be used on a smaller scale in any garden.

Where to site your habitat

Many invertebrates like cool damp conditions, so you can site your habitat in semi shade, by a hedge or under a tree. Putting the habitat close to other wildlife features, such as an overgrown hedge, a shrubberyor a pond will make it easier for small creatures to find it. Not all creatures like to be in the shade: solitary bees like a warm sunny spot, so put tubes for bees on the sunniest side of the habitat, or put them elsewhere in the garden.

Choose a level, even surface: the habitat may end up fairly heavy, so will need a firm base.

The basic structure

We used old pallets for the basic structure. The more you can use recycled or reclaimed materials the better. The habitat does not need to be more than 5 pallets high. Our pallets were all the same size. If your pallets are not all the same, put the larger ones at the bottom and make a ziggurat! If you place the bottom pallet upside down, this should create larger openings at the ends, which can be used for a hedgehog house.
Although the structure should be stable, you might want to secure each pallet to the one below .

Filling the gaps

There are many different ways to fill the gaps in the structure, here are some suggestions.

Dead wood. Dead wood is an increasingly rare habitat as we tidy our gardens, parks and amenity woodlands. It is essential for the larvae of wood-boring beetles, such as the stag beetle. It also supports many fungi, which help break down the woody material. Crevices under the bark hold centipedes and woodlice.

Holes for solitary bees. There are many different species of solitary bee, all are excellent pollinators. The female bee lays an egg on top of a mass of pollen at the end of a hollow tube, she then seals the entrance with a plug of mud. A long tube can hold several such cells.

Hollow stems, such as old bamboo canes, or holes drilled into blocks of wood, make good nest sites for solitary bees. Holes of different diameters mean many different species can be catered for. You can make a home for solitary bees by collecting old canes or pieces of hollow plant stems, then placing in a length of plastic drain-pipe or a section from a plastic drinks bottle. You can also build a wooden shelter, similar to a bird box. Solitary bees like warmth, so place your habitat in a sunny spot, perhaps on a south-fencing wall.

Bees use differing ways to seal their egg chambers:

Straw & Hay. Provide many opportunities for invertebrates to burrow in and find safe hibernation sites.
Dry Leaves. More homes for a variety of invertebrates; this mimics the litter on the forest floor.
Loose bark. Beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice all lurk beneath the decaying wood and bark.

Hedgehog house. Hedgehogs are loved by most gardeners as the eat many slugs, they also consume earthworms, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, millipedes and woodlice. Hedgehogs need a secure place to build their nests in; a wooden box under a pile of sticks and debris in a sheltered corner is ideal. Our hedgehog home has dry leaves inside as bedding.

Toad hole. Frogs and toads eat many slugs and other gardenpests. Although they need a pond to breed in, they can spend most of the year out of water. We use stone and tiles as these provide the cool damp conditions amphibians need. Newts may also take advantage

of these conditions. Amphibians need a frost free place to spend the winter; this could be in the centre of our habitat, inside the base of a dry-stone wall, under a pile of rubble or deep underground. Woodlice and millipede shelp to break down woody plant material. They are essential parts of the garden recycling system.

Crevices. Many garden invertebrates need a safe place to hibernate in through the winter. Our habitat has many different types of crannies and crevices that different species of invertebrate can hide in over winter.

Lacewing homes. Lacewings and their larvae consume large numbers of aphids, as well as other garden pests. You can make a home for lacewings by rolling up a piece of corrugated cardboard and putting it in a waterproof cylinder, such as an old lemonade bottle.

Ladybirds. Ladybirds and their larvae are champion aphid munchers. The adults hibernate over winter, they need dry sticks or leaves to hide in.

Bumblebees. Every spring queen bumblebees search for a site to build a nest and found a new colony. An upturned flowerpot in a warm sheltered place might be used.

Nectar producing plants. Why not plant some nectar-rich flowers around your habitat. These provide essential food for butterflies, bees and many other flying insects.

via Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Bickley Hall Farm, Bickley, Malpas, Cheshire SY14 8EF.
Landline: 01948 820728  Mobile 0773 453 8471