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The Bug Snug: An Easy, Free DIY Project for the Garden

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The Bug Snug: An Easy, Free DIY Project for the Garden

January 11, 2024

Every so often a DIY project comes across our Instagram feed that stops us in our tracks–as was the case when Omved Gardens shared a video tutorial on building a “bug snug” for hibernating insects. Here was a truly easy to do-it-yourself project that uses materials gardeners likely have on hand (sticks and twine) and solves a common problem (what to do with extra cuttings and slow-to-compost twigs), all while supporting wildlife. We bookmarked it straightaway, but what was even more intriguing was that within a few weeks, we saw other gardeners recreating the bug snug or reposting OmVed’s video on their own feed: This humble garden DIY had gone about as viral as a garden post could go. 

Founded in 2017 on a formally tarmacked piece of land in north London’s Highgate Village, Omved Gardens is an educational garden and community space with a focus on biodiversity and permaculture. John Gaffney, the landscape gardener at Omved, says inspiration for the bug snug came from a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Garden last fall. “When leaving the gardens I noticed these pyramidal structures dotted around the car park,” says Gaffney. “There were signs posted explaining the purpose of these interesting structures and how they were made.” The towers of sticks support insects and invertebrates by providing a safe place to hibernate, and the hollow stems of dead plants, in particular, make excellent little hideaways. 

So when Gaffney was left with piles of sticks and hollow stems after preparing Omved’s wildflower beds for winter, he decided to make a smaller-scale version of the pyramids he’d seen at Wisley. “As gardeners, it’s very easy to want to get in the garden and clean up all the mess and the cuttings off the floor. But actually what wildlife wants is a bit of mess,” Gaffney says. And not only are the structures functional and attractive, he notes, they have made for great conversation starters about how to “prepare” for winter and the need to leave a bit of untidiness around for wildlife.

Here’s how to create your own bug snug.

Photography by Will Hearle, courtesy of OmVed Gardens, unless otherwise noted.

Step 1: Build the frame.

Gaffney demonstrates how to create the frame for the bug snug. Stills from video by Will Hearle for OmVed Gardens.
Above: Gaffney demonstrates how to create the frame for the bug snug. Stills from video by Will Hearle for OmVed Gardens.

Choose a position for your snug in a sunny spot if possible. Gather three sturdy wood poles of equal length; Gaffney used hazel, but says you can use any straight pieces of wood, including bamboo canes. You can make your snug any size (OmVed’s snugs stand about chest high). Gaffney tied the poles together informally; if you want to get fancy, you can use a clove hitch to create a proper tripod lashing. Once you’ve secured the poles, they should stand up by themselves, but you can knock them into the ground with a hammer or mallet to make the pyramid more secure.

Step 2: Gather your cuttings.

 Above: Gaffney gathers the materials to fill his frame. 
Above: Gaffney gathers the materials to fill his frame. 

You can use almost any garden cuttings to fill the frame: lawn clippings, dried-out flower stems, small sticks, but anything with a hollow center is particularly good for insects. To make it easy to stack your materials, cut bunches of material to roughly the same length.

Step 3: Fill the frame.

A completed bug snug at OmVed Gardens. 
Above: A completed bug snug at OmVed Gardens. 

Once you’ve gathered and cut all your material, you can start layering within the frame. “Just go for it, layering it up until you get to the very top,” says Gaffney. He suggests you can try to vary the materials in layers (like a trifle or a lasagne) from sticks, stems, and leaves to grass clippings and dead flower heads. Tip: You can secure the narrowest part at the top with jute or other biodegradable string.

At Governor&#8\2\17;s Island in New York, hollow stems of rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) are among the clippings that fill its bug snug. Photographs by Sarma Ozols.
Above: At Governor’s Island in New York, hollow stems of rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) are among the clippings that fill its bug snug. Photographs by Sarma Ozols.

If you make your own bug snug, you’ll be joining a host of other gardeners. “The response has been great,” says Gaffney. “There have been bug snugs popping up all over the world.” Sarma Ozols and Logan Fisher, gardeners on Governors Island in New York City, were among those who took inspiration from OmVed’s video. While pruning some sumac, Fisher and Ozols decided to build their own snug. In addition to the sumac clippings, they added the hollow stems of Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) and clippings from warm season grasses like Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).  “The grasses were easy to twist and curve into a nest-like structure within the tripod of wood,” says Ozols. “It was so much fun to make!”

For a gallery of garden-inspired DIY projects, check out our Lookbook.

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