Give wildlife a sunbed
- Activity time:
- Less than 2 hours
- Difficulty level:
- Suitable for:
- Large garden, Medium garden
- To help:
- Lizards & snakes
Create a warm and safe hotspot, providing a place for slow-worms and lizards to warm themselves in safety.
Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures that need to use the heat of their environment to become active – especially on our chilly British mornings.
You can make your sunbed out of corrugated material or an old carpet tile whenever you like, but it's a great activity to do in spring because you can get it straight out into position ready for when slow-worms emerge after the winter.
You can check under the sheet once a week or so from spring to autumn (don't do it too often). Tiptoe up to the sheet, as any lizards you have may sit on top of the sheet. Then gently lift the sheet using the handle.
It's really easy to do and kids will love to peer underneath.
You may only find a few beetles or maybe ants will form a nest – fascinating in itself. But if you’re really lucky, you may find slow-worms (which are legless lizards) or even grass snakes. If your garden is near heaths or rough grassland, watch out for adders.
What you will need
- Corrugated sheet (Onduline preferably)
- Or carpet tile
- Short length of thin rope
- Stanley knife
Step by step guide
- Choose your cover for your sunbed. It’s best to use a corrugated sheet which has space for reptiles to move under.
The best is Onduline, which is a roofing material coated in bitumen and available from most DIY stores. This dark tar helps it warm up quickly, even in weak sunshine.
You can use corrugated iron, but be careful as it rusts - it can be sharp for little hands.
A cheaper alternative is a square of dark carpet tile, but the lack of corrugations mean that reptiles can't get under it easily.
- Choosing your size. A good size for a sunbed is about 1m x 1m. Onduline tends to come in sheets of 1m x 2m for about £20, so buy one and cut in half. Don't try sawing it - the tar will catch in the teeth. Instead, measure a line down the middle and use a sharp Stanley knife.
- Add a simple lifting handle. Drill a couple of holes about 15cm apart along one of the edges with the undulations. They need to be large enough to thread a piece of rope through. Make your holes equidistant from the centre.
Take your length of rope and thread the two ends through the holes from the front to the back of the corrugated sheet – tie a knot in each end of the rope to create the handle.
- Place your sheet in a suitable location. You need somewhere that will catch the morning sun, close to long grass or log and stick piles. That's it!
- Get ready to start checking for new visitors. Look under the sheet once a week or so from spring to autumn; don't do it too often or wildlife will be nervous about using it. Tiptoe up to the sheet, as any lizards you have may sit on top of the sheet. Then gently lift the sheet using the handle. You may only find a few beetles or maybe ants will form a nest – fascinating in itself. But if you’re really lucky, you may find slow-worms (which are legless lizards) or even grass snakes. Field voles like making grass nests underneath, and wood mice may take seeds under there to eat in peace. If your garden is near heaths or rough grassland, just be careful as there is the slim chance it may be used by adders, which are well known for their dangerous bite. That's where having a handle comes in useful.
Watch this video on how to create a sunbed for wildlife
Give wildlife a sunbed/Measure/Cut/Drill/Thread/Place/Bask