Bats: Garden Pest Control
November 4, 2016
Bats aren’t creepy. They’re actually a huge asset to both yard and garden pest control that is also, all natural and totally free. Being afraid of bats is the result of watching too many spooky movies! And they aren’t transmitters of diseases like rabies anymore than other wild animals and birds that regularly visit backyards. And they have additional services to offer you should be aware of.
There are 1300 bat species on Earth. Like anything else in the wild, every region will have certain types. Some eat fish, some eat bugs, some eat fruit – though about 70% are insectivores. So the benefits offered by bats that would take up residence in your yard greatly depend on what part of the world you live in. Unfortunately, bats are endangered today thanks to humans. There ought to be a law against killing them when found roosting in a building. They aren’t a pest, bats are a blessing, as important to the environment as bees.
Get Over Your Fears
If one gets in your house, it’s just as freaked out as you are. The poor thing knows it is trapped. If it flies at your head, maybe you should stop screaming, or swatting at it with a broom. Open the doors! Figure out how to help it get back outside to freedom without harming it. And when the chaos is over, be thankful. Now you know that many insects in your yard have a predator on patrol, because bats offer fantastic insect control. If allowed to do their job, they make everything you do outdoors so much more enjoyable.
Yes, they have teeth, but so do you. It aids digestion if food is chewed. If it flies at night, bats will reduce your undesirable population of winged things at the rate of up to 6000 per night… each! Goodbye mosquitoes, sayonara moths, adios june beetles – without foggers, bug zappers, skin sprays, or ineffective citronella candles. A colony of bats will do away with them 100% chemical free. No electrical cords, batteries, or solar cells needed. And while they’re out there gobbling down all those bugs, they’re processing dinner into highly sought after organic fertilizer. Your very own bat guano source, if you approach harvesting it properly.
Bats are part of the pollinator group that everyone should pay more attention to. They pollinate flowers with blooms that remain open at night, though they are more famous for being pollination in desert and tropical regions. Bats are responsible for pollinating over 500 different plants, including some valuable crops: agave, bananas, cocoa, dates, durian, figs, guavas, mangoes and peaches. They prefer white and pale flowers, while bees tend to favor bright colored blooms. Without bats, the world would have no chocolate, tequila, and a lot less fruit diversity. Obviously, the entire plant kingdom would suffer great losses if the bats disappeared.
Yard & Garden Pest Control
Besides reducing insects that bite, or drive you nuts after sundown, bats do away with things that damage your garden or landscaping. It just so happens that june bugs/beetles come from larvae known as grubs – the kind that eat plant roots, and are super fond lawn grasses. So, having a bat colony gives you grub control sans chemicals. The more of these beetles that get eaten, the less grubs will be out there causing dead spots.
While moths are fascinating, too many of them is not a good thing. They too lay eggs, and the larvae that hatch eat your plants. Some of these worms and caterpillars destroy a food crop rather fast, not to mention spread plant diseases. It’s recently been proven that in addition to being beneficial to garden pest control, bats are a huge asset to agriculture too. A discovery that increases their importance to your veggie garden several notches.
A 2-year farm study in an Indiana cornfield found that bats greatly reduce corn damage from earworm by covering sections of the crop with netting that blocked out bats but not smaller flying creatures like insects. The conclusion? Corn earworm damage exploded wherever bat access was removed. As much as 60% more ears were destroyed or damaged in one way or another! It’s not just that the earworms eat some of the kernels, they also mess up pollination causing ear deformities and poor kernel formation, as well as introduce fungal diseases.
Okay, so you’re not corn farmer, but a small corn patch in the backyard suffers from the exact same pest. In fact, you’re also open to even more damage, given the biodiversity of your crop system. The same moth’s larvae is also known as Tomato Fruitworm, and it damages a lot of different garden vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, green beans, lettuces, and squashes. AND it’s not just one batch of hungry caterpillars you have to battle each year – there is the early group, the midsummer group, followed by the late group. So, your garden is under attack by the same pest for both early season harvests, and again as tomatoes start ripening and corn reaches maturity. Then they finish the maturity process in time to fly south, lay new eggs that are ready for returning to your garden to start the cycles all over again in spring.
Got problems with leafhoppers, stink bugs, or other plant pests that are active after dark? Bats eat many different insects, the ones I’ve named are just a sampling, but they are known to be devoured by bats. If your pesky bug, worm, or caterpillar is nocturnal, there’s a good chance that population control au naturale is provided by insectavore bats.
Sure, there’s a host of garden pest control products you can use to battle lots of destructive pests. But by using them, you’re guilty of removing the food sources of bats, and possibly poisoning them in the process. Between imports from foreign environments, and loss of habitat due to development, deforestation, pesticides, and curb appeal activities… bat losses in the wild are reaching alarming rates. Right now there’s a disease known as white-nose syndrome that is ravaging bat populations in the northeastern part of the United States. The same disease is rampant in China, but they’re not sure exactly how it got here, or if colony losses are as severe there as they are becoming here. Either imports, or people traveling from here to there and back are how white-nose infected bats on the west side of the Atlantic.
We Need Bat Habitat!
And you definitely need to harness their assistance in garden pest control and disease management. Hopefully, you don’t live in a really noisy neighborhood, because it messes up their ability to find food. They’re just as at home in some city neighborhoods and the suburbs as they are in rural locations. So, the first thing you need to learn is what kind of bats live in your area, because their chosen habitat calls for the kind of roosting shelter and nursery facilities the species prefers. It might be a dead tree, a cave, a thick hedge, or the overhang of a roof, but you can also build a bat house that provides a home they will find very livable.
A ‘critter control expert’ will tell you that bats do not move into bat houses. Colorado State University, however, says that they do. Of course, you’ll need to do some annual maintenance to make sure they find it still a good, solid home and place to raise their young year after year. Bats live up to 20 years. Some migrate, and others will hibernate – but never in a thin walled bat house where winters are extreme. Either way, they return to the same summer residences come spring, because be it ever so humble… there’s just no place like home.
Secondly, you should make sure that night blooming flowers are in the yard. They don’t have to just open at night, but remain so after sundown. They love really fragrant ones that are pale in color. And stop spraying or fogging all the insects! The US Fish & Wildlife Service says that bats need open water they can skim to drink while in flight. You might want to include adding a small pond to the things needed in the perfect bat habitat. If it’s circulating, like a backyard water feature, mosquitoes won’t lay eggs in it. Even a large bird bath placed where it offers unobstructed flight paths will work – just keep it clean, and regularly replenished.
It’s not a build it and they will come kind of thing. Don’t expect them to arrive right away, and take up residence in your yard. Bats scout possible new accommodations while flying around eating at night. It could take 2-3 years before a colony decides that your address should be theirs too. How plentiful is their food source? One can never grow too many plants! Enlarge your gardens for both food crops and beautiful flowers. No creature chooses to move into a food desert!
Unlike other garden beneficials, like predator insects and honey bees, you can’t buy them. It’s usually illegal to sell bats in the US, and even if you did find a source, you’d be wasting your money. They’re homebodies. Instead of moving into a bat house in your yard, they’d simply fly back to wherever they came from. So, your best approach to having a bat colony in residence is to build a great bat house, and position it where the lifestyle amenities are simply too hard to pass up.
- Best Tips on Attracting Bats
- Bat House Location
- Importance of Bats
- Earworm Study
- See Page 4
- About White-Nose Syndrome
- Current Bat Mortality
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