Bugs in the City

This activity is a great school project for Key Stage 2 pupils, but also suitable for bug-loving families! For the background information on all things creepy crawly, please download the PDF above. Please note that the activities below can be completed in order or as stand alone activities.


Canary Wharf is inherently a brownfield site where ‘natural’ ecosystems have not existed since the draining of Stepney Marshes in the 13th century.

Over the last 30 years Canary Wharf Estate has become an integral part of the Thames Estuary and Canary Wharf Group works to promote an integrated green infrastructure that maximises the estuarine ecosystem services we are part of.

The first resident bee population arrived at Canary Wharf in 2014 – on the rooftop of KPMG’s offices. In 2018, the pollinator community grew with the installation of beehives.

You can watch the bee cams live here:

Canary Wharf Estate would like you to design and create a Bug Hotel that will encourage and support biodiversity.

Activity 1: Collect

Estimated Time: 30 minutes – a week!
Location: outdoors
Level of experience: none needed

The first things we need are some building materials. How many different materials you can collect to make your hotel?

As you hunt for materials can you spy any mini beasts? Where are they living?

Why do you think natural and recycled materials are best? Here are some ideas:

Natural Materials:
• Logs and twigs • Rotting wood • Dry leaves • Bark • Hollow plant stems • Bamboo • Straw or hay • Dried moss • Pine cones • Stones

Recycled Materials:
• Wooden pallets • Plastic bottles • Broken bricks • Old or broken flower pots • Pipes • Toilet rolls • Corrugated card • Straws • Chicken wire • Cardboard takeaway cups • Shoe boxes

Activity 2: Design

Estimated Time: 2 hours
Location: indoors
Level of experience: a little

– Printing ink or paint
– Rollers and Roller tray
– Paper plate (optional)
– Collected materials
– Masking tape
– A3 paper
– Scissors and glue


Canary Wharf is a feat of civil engineering. You can explore some of the incredible buildings on this 3D map: www.canarywharfmap.com

What different shapes can you find?

César Pelli is the architect who designed One Canada Square which was completed in 1991. At 50 stories high it is the third tallest building in the UK. The shape is also similar to that of Big Ben, another iconic London landmark.

What do you think César Pelli considered when designing One Canada Square?

Think about the design of your Bug Hotel – what do you think you need to consider?

Design a Bug Hotel: Step by Step

1. Using some of the materials you collected can you make bundles where one end is level. Tie them tight with masking tape.

2. Roll out your printing ink on the printing tray or put some paint on a tray or paper plate.

3. Dip the end of your bundle in the ink or paint.

4. Print your bundle onto a sheet of paper. Can you print it multiple times to cover your paper? Can you create different patterns? Experiment by printing with different materials.

5. Think about the shapes that you found in the buildings – there were squares and rectangles but also curved corners and circles and even some diamonds. What shapes did you see?

6. Can you cut out large shapes like the ones you saw in the buildings from your printed patterns? Lay in them on a fresh sheet of paper, play around with your design until you are happy with the look of your hotel. Each pattern might represent a different room or material.

Activity 3: Build

Activity Time: 90minutes
Location: outdoors
Level of experience: none needed

– A range of collected materials
– Cable ties
– Wire
– Bricks
– Palettes

1. Location, location, location

Where is your bug hotel going to go?

Do you need to tidy or clear the area? Is it easily accessible? Will you be able to come back and watch your bug hotel develop? How long can your bug hotel stay? Who do you want to live here?

Some insects like cool, moist areas so somewhere shady is best but other creatures, such as solitary bees, like somewhere a bit warmer with some sun.

The ground also needs to be flat and stable so you have a solid foundation for your hotel.

2. Structure

You need to make sure your core structure is strong and stable. Don’t build it any more than 1meter high.

Wooden pallets can make a strong base and are good for a bug hotel as they have lots of gaps that can be filled with other materials. If you have some old bricks lay these on the ground in a H shape to create a base and then palettes can be stacked on top and secured using wire or cable ties.

You could also use your printed designs to inspire the shape of your hotel.

3. Fill the gaps

Gather cardboard tubes, cardboard cups, bottles and fill them:

• with rolled up corrugated card for lacewings

• dried leaves or moss for ladybirds to hibernate

• rotting bark and wood for woodlice, spiders, centipedes and beetles

• hay or straw for creatures that like to burrow and hibernate

4. Tip Top

Don’t forget to put a roof on. It’s important your hotel doesn’t flood when it rains.

You could use old roofing tiles or some planks covered in roofing felt to make it weather proof.

In canary wharf there are bee hives on top of one of the buildings. You could put plant some wild flowers on your roof to attract butterflies in the spring.

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