How to attract slow worms and other reptiles
Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures that need to use the heat of their environment to become active. You can make your sunbed out of corrugated material at any time, but it's best to have it ready for spring when slow-worms emerge after the winter. 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 it using the handle. It's easy to do and kids will love to peer underneath. If your garden is near heaths or rough grassland, watch out for adders.
Watch this video on how to create a sunbed for wildlife
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 sunny, quiet spot next to long grass or log piles.
Check for new visitors. Look under the sheet once a week or so from spring to autumn, but 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 find a few beetles or maybe ants will form a nest. If you’re 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.