Making Room For Bats: Why Your Gardens Need Them
June 27, 2018
While you are sleeping, bats come out of their caves, tree hollows, or roosts, swooping through the dark night as they search for food. It could even be happening in your own backyard. Sounds spooky, doesn’t it? In reality, bats aren’t all that scary; in fact, you want them in your gardens!
Bats have a terrible reputation, mainly thanks to their fictional link to vampires stemming from their nocturnal habits and thirst for blood. There are actually only three bat species that drink blood, and they primarily feed on cattle. Contrary to common belief, they don’t all have rabies and they won’t get tangled in your hair either; a big ‘thank you’ to National Geographic Kids for clearing that up. Yes, the site is for children, but I sure felt a lot better after reading it, and you probably will too.
There’s no reason to panic if you happen to see some bats in your yard one night; in fact, you should celebrate! Just like birds and bees, bats are pollinators and a sign of a very healthy environment. The U.S. Forest Service says bats disperse seeds that grow into bananas, avocados, and hundreds of other plant species.
This not-so-scary creature is also the most natural pesticide you can find; the Smithsonian’s resident bat expert says bats are immensely helpful to orchardists and farmers, eating a countless number of damaging insects such as aphids, moths, beetles, and the real blood-suckers, mosquitoes. In fact, a single little brown bat can eat close to a thousand insects… in just one hour! Studies have found many of these bugs cause damage to a variety of crops including alfalfa, corn, cotton, rice, soybean, and many fruits and vegetables.
Anyway, long story short, keep gardening for the bees, birds, and butterflies; but also make room in your backyard for bats. Here’s how to do it:
By installing a bat box in your backyard, you’re potentially providing a safe environment for hundreds of bats. Bat Conservation International says habitat loss means bats are finding it harder to find places to roost during the day and to raise their young. Because mothers only have one pup a year, populations are slow to grow. A bat box gives the babies a chance to survive; if they’re healthy, your gardens will be too!
You can easily make your own bat box, but there are a few things you need to consider when building one. It’s a good idea to make two of them, one facing south-west and the other south-east so the bats can choose from a range of temperatures. Choose a material with a rough surface so the bats have something to grip onto when climbing in and out. And, wherever you install the box, make sure the bats will be safe from predators. Boxes mounted on the side of buildings or high up on poles are the best.
Build A Pond
Building a pond in your backyard is an aesthetically-pleasing way to attract bats. Just like any other living thing, bats need fresh water to survive. Not to mention, where there is water there are mosquitoes, and they make a tasty meal for bats.
Plant Night-Scented Flowers
We often fill our gardens with beautiful daytime blooms to keep the bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies happy. But if you plant flowers that thrive at night, moths will come, and the bats will be happy. Usually light in color, night-scented plant varieties include wisterias, sweet rocket, and petunias, to name a few.
Planting a wildflower patch in your garden will provide shelter for plenty of insects, which in turn provides food for plenty of bats.
Consider this; if you end up having a large roost for bats, there’s a chance you might even be able to build up a little guano. You won’t get much, but bat guano is very high in nitrogen making it a great fertilizer. A little goes a long way!
Bats are amazing animals that are important to ecosystems around the world. There’s no need to be scared; don’t think vampire, think Batman. And Batman is pretty cool.