Build a hotel for pollinators

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The University has built accommodations for useful insects, and the little creatures are amply repaying the favour by pollinating edible plants and keeping pests in check.

The University established an insect hotel next to its location in central Finland.The intention is to raise awareness about the significance of pollinators and to generate new information on them.

“Natural pollinators play a vital role in increasing crops, and not just in gardens and on fields;the same goes for wild berries,” lists Project Manager Birgitta Partanen from the Mikkeli unit of the University’s Ruralia Institute.

“This is why we want to encourage people to build their own insect hotels – only their imagination is the limit.”

Different clientele for private and group hotels

Before you build your insect hotel, consider which insects you are hoping to attract.

“For example, bumble bees and hornets like living in small colonies.They are often drawn to crevices or pots,while native bees and parasitoid wasps are hermits who want their own space.Meanwhile, lacewings, ladybugs and butterflies are not particular: they’re happy with simple abodes,” explains Partanen.

At its most simple, an insect hotel can be a wooden disk with holes drilled through it, or a piece of an empty can filled with hollow reeds.The University’s insect hotel in Mikkeli offers a touch of luxury.

As Partanen describes it, “This is a spacious specialty hotel with different compartments!

“The materials include wood, reeds, moss and birch bark.The roof is lined with roofing felt to shield the inhabitants from rain.On top of that, we’ve planted a green roof which regulates temperature and protects the hotel from the hot sun.”

Spying on guests

For the insect hotel project, the Ruralia Institute has partnered with other members of the University community, including Birgitta Partanen’s colleagues from Helsinki, the Viikki Green Campus, the Department of Forest Sciences and the Department of Agricultural Sciences.

“This year we’ve examined the insect population in the hotel and tracked the rate of use.We will change the compartments annually according to topical research subjects.The hotel can stay in the Mikkelipuisto park as long as it remains functional or can be renovated,” Partanen plans.

“We’re hoping that insect hotels will find a place in every yard and garden!”

Readers of German or Finnish can find construction tips from the insect hotel guide written by Berlin-based biologist Melanie von Orlow.

Pollinators are also a central theme for the international European Campus of Excellence Summer Schooltaking place at the University of Helsinki in August, as its theme this year is ecosystem services.

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