Welcome to the Insect Hotel

Various comments to my previous post prove how many of us appreciate not only butterflies’ beauty but also the idea that the beating of their wings has far-reaching consequences. While seeing them flutter from flower to flower is grounds for celebration, the relative scarcity of all insects is noticeable and has been commented on by professional and amateur entomologists for years.

Similar to other vanishing species, the reasons for their disappearance are multiple: a warming climate, loss or fragmentation of habitat, indiscriminate use of insecticides, etc. In other words, the human effect. But unlike the butterfly effect, the human effect isn’t as subtle. The sobering news about plummeting North American Monarch numbers owing to the widespread application of insecticides on vast agricultural fields has been well-documented and efforts are underway to undo at least some of the damage inflicted on these ephemeral beings.

While wandering through neighborhoods, fields, and forests in search of birds and butterflies during my most recent trip to Germany this past autumn, my attention was drawn to insect hotels of varying shapes and sizes time and again. Butterflies might or might not make use of the rooms provided in said hotels, but other insects, such as flies and bees, whose numbers have also been declining, certainly do. One may question if these finite artificial constructs can replace the myriad natural dwellings that were once available in abundance, but they are a step in the right direction.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. 

I have a tendency to become cynical and hopeless in the face of environmental degradation and resultant threat to or loss of life humans have wrought. When looking at the global goings-on and challenges faced by all denizens of our planet, anxiety and depression often gain the upper hand and I worry that we are doing too little too late.

Various comments to some of my other posts also prove that many of us have been profoundly touched by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s poignant book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” which I just finished reading for the second time. She, too, struggles with fear and despair, but she doesn’t give in to those negative feelings. In the chapter entitled “The Sacred and the Superfund,” in which she describes the painstaking process by which one of the most polluted lakes in the world is slowly coming back to life, she has this to say:

The waste beds [of Onondaga Lake] are not unique. The cause and chemistry vary from my homeland to yours, but each of us can name these wounded places. We hold them in our minds and our hearts. The question is, what do we do in response?

We could take the path of fear and despair. We could document every scary scene of ecological destruction and never run out of material . . . What would such a vision create other than woe and tears?. . .

But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I CHOOSE JOY OVER DESPAIR. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.

We are deluged by information regarding our destruction of the world and hear almost nothing about how to nurture it. It is no surprise then that environmentalism becomes synonymous with dire predictions and powerless feelings. . . .

Despair is paralysis. It robs us of agency. It blinds us to our own power and the power of the earth.

Restoration is a powerful antidote to despair. Restoration offers concrete means by which humans can once again enter into the positive, creative relationship with the more-than-human world, meeting responsibilities that are simultaneously material and spiritual. It’s not enough to grieve. It’s not enough to just stop doing bad things.

So instead of despairing, let us resolve to restore. Let us welcome insects by putting up insect hotels. Let us plant milkweed for the Monarchs. Let us refrain from using insecticides. Let us feed the birds. Let us plant native wildflowers instead of Kentucky Bluegrass. Let us use less and recycle what we use. Let us compost. Let us pick up the trash that litters and mars our favorite destinations. Let us think of other ways to show our love and appreciation for Mother Earth.

58 thoughts on “Welcome to the Insect Hotel

  1. This is a great post Tanja, clearly written from the heart. I’ve just checked our local library service’s catalogue and found that they have copies of Braiding Sweetgrass, so I’ll see if I can get hold of one.

    On the subject of declining insect numbers, another contributory factor is the obsession with “taming” nature, classifying wildflowers as weeds to be tidied away (ie eradicated!). The desire to impose order on Nature is a ludicrous as it is destructive; when wild flowers are killed and fallen trees removed, insects lose their habitats and food sources; and when the insects are lost, so too are the birds and other creatures that feed on them. It’s very depressing, but Robin Wall Kimmerer is right, we must choose hope over despair! Thank you again for an inspiring post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for this post. I too often give in to a sense of hopelessness. It is good to be reminded that there are proactive things we can all be doing, even in the face of what feels like an onslaught from the big corporates and seemingly irresponsible governments, not that there are any easy solutions. But saving our planet and our futures requires making decisions – big and small – and some more are difficult than others, but many are decisions that we can all decide to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carol. You are right, it often feels like an uphill battle to try to undo the damage that has been and continues to be done on a very large scale. I keep hoping that many, many, many small decisions will eventually outweigh the nefarious destruction that occurs on a large scale. Let’s not lose hope!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gestern war ich am Weserwehr in Bremen.
    Dort hat der BUND einen ganzen Bereich für Insekten gestaltet.
    Ganz fantastisch ist das geworden und man kann nur hoffen, dass weder Mensch noch Hund das zerstören.
    Schade, dass man hier nicht einfach ein Bild posten kann wie bei WhatsApp.
    Ich danke dir für deinen post, den ich später nochmal auf dem PC mit Übersetzung lesen werde.
    Liebe Grüße Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a good positive tone in the conclusion of your post.

    In 1971 I lived for half a year in a little town on the eastern shore of Lake Cayuga, one of New York’s Finger Lakes. Onondaga Lake, while not far away from there, isn’t traditionally counted as one of the Finger Lakes (I don’t know why). You prompted me to read up on Onondaga. At

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onondaga_Lake

    I learned, among many other things, that “No other lake in the United States receives as much of its inflow as treated wastewater.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Steve. Treated wastewater is at least some progress. For decades, it was any number of untreated materials that were allowed into the lake, not only water. The chapter about Lake Onondaga in “Braiding Sweetgrass” would be utterly demoralizing were it not for the restorative efforts and nature’s amazing resilience.

      Like

  5. These ‘insect hotels’ have become increasingly common here. I photographed one on Galveston Island that was a young man’s Eagle Scout project. It’s quite impressive, and quite attractive. I’ve been meaning to post a photo of it; your post is an encouragement to do so. What’s especially good about his project is that it’s part of an ever-enlarging natural area that’s being protected, parcel by parcel. There will be plenty of native plants to nourish whichever insects choose to overwinter in his hotel.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The changes in our world are overwhelming at times and your post resonates with me, Tanja. Sometimes I feel hopeless and then I look closely at my surroundings. We have a wealth of insects, mammals and birds just in our garden alone. Our garden is planted with indigenous plants (to the Piney Woods area of Texas) and I try to go with nature. The dinosaurs were still the most successful species to inhabit earth so we can keep doing better. K x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ” Let us use less and recycle what we use. Let us compost. Let us pick up the trash that litters and mars our favourite destinations. Let us think of other ways to show our love and appreciation for Mother Earth.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Even so, I get constantly angered by the residents of my apartment building (78 apartments in all), who throw unrecyclable plastics and items in our large recycle bins in our basement. The sign clearly states no plastic bags and residents continue to throw food and (plastic) bags into the recycle bin(s). I can only imagine the people who work beside the conveyor belts amidst the stench of rotting food, who have to syphon out items that can’t be recycled. If a dead bird or little critter is thrown in the recycling bin(s), sorting and the conveyor belt is shut down and dead bodies have to be removed, before the council recycling efforts can continue.

    I mean to say, how many seconds does it take to sort your rubbish as it arises into 2 bins in your apartment. I believe the Japanese have got recycyling down to a fine art and have several bins for the various types of recycling and there are fines if you’re caught breaking the rules.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Vicki. I can relate to your frustration. Every park, wild area, or river I visit is littered with trash, people still use one-way plastic bags each time they buy groceries, and many people don’t even try to recycle, consider it too much of an effort. That makes me angry, too, but also very depressed. What do we have to do to get individuals to care?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our building Body Corporate Admin. put up large signs with words and pictures of what can be recycled and in more than one language, but many people don’t care what they do that affects the environment and their own community. I find our Asian community are the best at caring for their neighbours and strangers alike. I forgot to mention the number of disposable surgical masks that are polluting my nearby walking paths, river and even a nearby beach. Masks are getting into our waterways and oceans worse than plastic bags at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. We’ve been working at reintroducing native species for all the wild critters in our neighbor who depend on such plants. First was the major battle to eradicate invasive species (Himalayan blackberries were the worst of the lot). Our landscape may not be as ‘tidy’ as some, but it seems to be helping to bring back more of the natural order of things. I have a feeling it won’t be long before I’m ready to read “Braiding Sweetgrass” again! It certainly was an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gunta, I think what you did is wonderful. Reintroducing native species is just one of the things each of us can try to tackle in our small spheres. Our notions of “tidiness” with regard to nature are definitely misguided.
      I know that I will return to “Braiding Sweetgrass” from time to time to be re-inspired. 🙂

      Like

  9. “Let us resolve to restore” is such a succinct and wonderful way to explain what so many of us are trying to do! I loved this hopeful post, and do resolve to soldier on in restoring what is possible for me as an individual. Oy vey, I have to focus on it, or reading the daily news would spin me down into hopelessness.
    On a bright note, your insect hotels are quite decorative and artistic!
    Best,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m coming back again to read the comments and as well as the post a second time. I must read Kimmerer’s book; judging from the quoted selection, she and I share similar sentiment! Thank you again for your wonderfully crafted thoughts into words.

    As you know, I choose to battle the despair and futility that often accompanies the modern environmental movement with action. Mine is with empowering others, helping them to restore small spaces right where they are. Rather than allowing the daily worry about the future doom of things to drag me down, I refocus effort instead helping others to see their littlest neighbors differently: the success of our species is dependent on many others. A visible sign like a bee hotel is a declaration of that acceptance. Little victories, Tanja!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Shannon. I hope you will get around to reading “Braiding Sweetgrass,” as you likely can relate to many of the author’s thoughts and resolutions.

      I admire you for all the work you do on behalf of nature and for maintaining a positive, optimistic outlook. More power to you.

      Like

  11. Degradation of environment is very real. It is sad that we decided we can take everything, change it to our taste without giving proper consideration about sequences. I’ve been, too, an advocate for green living for many years. It’s just so that not many people were reading, and while some responded, it is very often just talk.
    I wish many more of us tried to live simpler, consuming less and having less impact on the Earth. The biggest polluters and destroyers are actually the huge cities. Their impact on environment cannot be underestimated. Just think about the waste from each person. theoretically, out-of-town living should be supported and promoted, and facilitated, but we’ve chosen convenience over sustainability and there’s no end to that. Therefore, habitats for wildlife don’t have a good chance. Cities get bigger and bigger and spread out more. It’s huge areas where construction goes on for decades, and all surrounding forests, marshes, woods and fields, they change.
    Very heartfelt post, and I think people who respond to your message are already taking some steps to lifestyle which preserves nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Inese. I agree with everything you said. In the end, all we can do is try to live as responsibly and sustainably as possible, share the message, and vote for someone who also cares about the Earth.

      Like

  12. This modern world’s policy of ‘Use and Throw’ is creating so much pollution every where. Metal, plastic and all kind of garbage is in the soil. How can anything grow out of such polluted place? Habitats of wildlife are either starving, turning towards human colonies or forced to eat polluted food.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I enjoyed ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ as well. Have you ever read anything by Doug Tallamy? His latest book is a sobering call to action with clear steps to get there. Highly recommended. (www.homegrownnationalpark.org) I encourage writing to lawmakers to ask that state and interstate highways be only mown once annually (preferably in early spring) so that they can become corridors for pollinators. In Britain, there is an initiative that pays farmers to leave a swath of meadow between fields and it seems to be working to improve numbers.
    A note about bee hotels… entomologists are now thinking that large ones are counterproductive as birds, like woodpeckers, can wipe out the entire cache in one sitting… one stop dining! Better to place smaller versions far and wide (50′ apart) across an area.
    Fine post, Tanja!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Eliza.

      I wasn’t familiar with Doug Tallamy’s writing until now, but just looked him up and will try to read one of his books.

      Nor had I heard about the problems associated with larger insect hotels. It’s good to know the latest thoughts. We hope to install some in our yard this summer, so we will take that into consideration.

      Thanks again,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

    • I first noticed them during my trips to Germany a few years back but they have started showing up here since then, although usually as smaller versions, e.g. as bee hotels.

      As one of our fellow bloggers pointed out, some scientists now recommend not putting all the different “housing” units in one location, but to spread them apart. It’s something I need to read up on.

      Liked by 1 person

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