Build a log pile

How to build a log shelter

Build a log spile

Putting together a log pile will create a village for all things creepy and crawly, and in turn this busy community will attract birds, hedgehogs and frogs looking to snack on a tasty morsel. Perhaps the most spectacular garden deadwood denizen is the 50mm stag beetle, found in light soils south of a line from the Wash to Bristol. Its larva will stay in old wood for up to six years before emerging as an adult to mate! 

Stag Beetle

Stag Beetle ©Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

How to build your village

You will need logs! You can get them from tree surgeons or firewood dealers. If you’re lucky, some pieces may already contain beetle grubs which could hatch and populate your garden. Native wood is best, but really anything will do. There are many ways to assemble your pile:

  • Scattering - You can scatter your logs in a border. They are handy for keeping plants apart and mulching the soil, but you’ll get more animal life from a concentrated stack
  • Neat and tidy pile - These are often seen in coppiced woodlands
  • Higgledey piggledy - The ‘natural’ way to do it, and great for architectural impact. But it can create remarkably little shade
  • Organ pipes - Sunken wood creates the most micro-climate possibilities. Especially recommended in the Thames Valley for stag beetles. If you can’t bury your logs, heaped wood chippings are another way to help stag beetles
  • Giant cheese. If you can get a real ‘wagon wheel’ log, it will create the most stable environment of all underneath. Superb for amphibian hibernation.
This busy community will attract birds, hedgehogs and frogs looking to snack on a tasty morsel

The five stars of the show:

  1. Devil’s coach horse. Odd-looking predatory beetle which curls its tail defensively – even at humans. Reportedly eats vine weevil, a rapidly-spreading plant pest.
  2. Lithobius centipede. Up close, a gorgeous honey-brown critter with huge poison fangs. An invertebrate methuselah, it may live for four years.
  3. Lesser stag beetle. Often arrives hidden in firewood logs as a large grub. Save any with signs of holes or rot, and adults may emerge in June.
  4. Common toad. May live for 10 years if you provide a friendly garden and hefty log pile hibernation site. Likes sparser ponds than frogs and newts.
  5. Woodlouse. They are eaten by birds and specialised Dysdera spiders (whose jaws can pierce human skin!)

Why not take a look at how to build special safe hiding spots for other garden animals?