he snarling clogged metropolitan artery that is Marylebone Road is not the first place you would expect to look for wildlife, but Regent’s Place has been doing its bit to encourage non-human life into the bustling development. One of the latest and most noticeable additions is the Bug Hotel.
There’s something slightly pagan about the wooden geometric shapes suspended from trees, and the juxtaposition with a busy Pret a Manger is somehow comical, but the small patch of grass and trees and the curious pendants hanging there are actually an attempt to draw insects and other wildlife into the area.
I asked Faye Kelland – from Quality and Service (Q&S) biodiversity consultancy – about the insect hotels. “Regent’s Place is a brilliant example of how you can encourage biodiversity even in a city scape,” she says. “We completely changed the planting scheme on campus and moved away from box hedging and seasonal planting to a very diverse environment.”D
igned by landscape designer Tracy Parker, the bug hotels were built by carpenters and filled with materials to provide habitats for a variety of insects and other invertebrates. Untreated wood, dried out grass/hay, rolled-up cardboard in plant pots, teasels, leaf litter, decaying twigs, bark, and pine cones provide shelter, food, and breeding grounds for diverse species of bees, beetles, butterflies and more.
“They are made of a variety of organic material which will slowly decay,” says Kelland. “Usually this kind of matter such as dry grass and leaf litter would be removed from site and composted, but this also takes away places for insects to eat, hide and lay.”
The bug hotels are part of a broader effort at Regent’s Place to reduce waste – by having permanent planting, so avoiding the need to replace plants every few months – and to provide a link between other green spaces in the city.
“A big problem for the UK’s wildlife is connectivity and it is getting increasingly difficult for wildlife to move from area to area”, says Kelland. “We hope to make these little Urban Edens to ensure there is always somewhere to hide.”A
s part of their biodiversity programme, Regent’s Place recently finished a series of events across a month, which included four nature walks taking occupiers around the campus to look the things put in for wildlife. But if you missed these, several articles on the news and blog sections of the Regent’s Park website discuss the projects – and others will take place in the future to get people thinking about the importance of a green environment.
But what can you expect to see? “As this is the first year of them being introduced we have yet to check what species are in them, this will be done towards the end of the year,” explains Kelland. “It is unlikely we will have anything rare, but we have already seen breeding ladybirds, holly blue butterflies, and several different types of bee flying around them.”
The bee species is are likely to be a mixture of honey bees from numerous city hives kept around central London, bumblebees such as white-tailed and tree bumblebees (either nesting in the soil of the ground around the bug hotels or in tree cavities), or one of the 200 plus solitary bee species that live in the UK – some of which might actually use the hotels to shelter eggs and larvae.S
piders are likely to be attracted to the bug hotels too. Small insects taking shelter there provide food, the structures will provide the scaffold for webs, and the dry jumble of cardboard and other material will be ideal shelter for eggs and spiderlings.
Spiders are often some of the first animals to colonise a new site as baby spiders fl oat around the air lifted aloft on a strand of silk—buffeted around like this, spiders can be found high in the atmosphere, on bare exposed rock after remote island volcanic eruptions, and on newly installed inner-city islands of habitat.
Kelland says that she hopes the installation and engagement at Regent’s Place might inspire people to do a bit at home. “We educate people on how they can create wildlife-friendly areas both at work and at home. If we can create habitats and wildlife friendly areas next to one of the busiest and most polluted streets in London, we can do it anywhere.”
And you don’t have to have a large outdoor space. If your flat has even a small balcony, flowering plants can attract bees, butterflies, ladybirds, and hoverflies – you could even have a little bug hotel yourself.
Or in a garden, go wild! Create your own and leave small patches of uncultivated land to encourage more species to move in.
Main image: Dan Hall