When hearing the word “bat”, you don’t necessarily associate it with something you would want in your garden. A widely spread misconception is that bats are these frightening creatures that can only do harm.
While it is true that bats may not be too friendly, this doesn’t mean that they are all evil. It is highly likely that, as a child, you might have heard a lot of stories involving bats, folklore tales and all sorts of things meant to scare you. The good news is that many of them are, in fact, just some stories.
In reality, bats are helpful creatures – indeed, they may not know this, but we do. Bats are any gardener’s best friend, given that they are incredibly efficient pest controllers. Isn’t this an interesting plot twist? The majority of people think of them as scary blood-sucking rodents that fly at night and can attack you. But this bad rap isn’t anywhere close to the truth.
In addition to bats actually being quite gentle creatures that avoid human contact as much as possible. They also get scared easily and fly erratically to run away if they ever get inside the house. But most importantly, they are also beneficial to the health of your garden. So, we can understand you may not want them around you, but it is of the utmost importance to welcome them into your garden. This can guarantee pest-free plants and trees.
Being one of the world’s natural pest controllers, it isn’t surprising gardeners want to attract them and invite them to linger around their gardens. Instead of using factory-made pesticides or insecticides that contain toxic chemicals extremely damaging to the environment, it is much better to attract bats.
They don’t represent a risk to the environment and have the capability to control and repel unwanted pests. So, the question really is – how could you not welcome them to your garden? Plus, it is also essential to know that they won’t be coming into contact with you or any human. If you learn how to attract them effectively, they will only come to fulfill the task at hand – although they may not be aware, this was the plan all along – which is controlling pests and not being tempted to explore other areas which don’t really interest them anyway.
This being said, it is now crucial to discuss the way in which you can attract bats effectively to your garden to eat pests, including mosquitos. In addition to this, you will be glad to find out that there are some other benefits to having bats in your garden.
Below you will find out more about why bats are beneficial to gardens as well as how to attract them
How can bats benefit your garden?
As briefly mentioned above, bats can benefit gardens in more than just one way. Apart from the fact that they can control and eliminate unwanted pests and insects that could harm your flowers and plants, they are also excellent pollinators — all the more reason to want them in your garden.
You might never have thought you would be planning to attract bats to your garden for their natural benefits, but as you discover them, this aspect will become a necessity.
Bats eat various pests and insects
Given that bats are nocturnal animals, they can feed on insects that are active during the night. This ensures that your garden is free of any unwanted pests or insects that will crawl and feed on your plant during nighttime. Bats target moths and mosquitos primarily, so you will be extremely happy to get rid of them significantly since these can disrupt your life as well and not just harm your garden life.
In addition to moths and mosquitos, bats also devour gnats and other insects as large as the flying beetle. A bat can eat as much as half its body weight in insects and bugs per night. One bat can feed on no less than 600 mosquitos or similarly sized insects per hour. This surely is a lot from one bat; imagine how a small army could help your garden. To put this into perspective, an average colony of bats is capable to rid of more than 100 tons of pests and insects. And that is only in one season.
Bats generate prized organic fertilizer.
Guano is bat excrement, which is a prized organic fertilizer acting as a natural plant enhancer. As a gardener, your goal is to plant and grow your collection and help it thrive naturally. So, instead of buying fertilizer, you can actually get it for free from the bats you learn to attract to your garden. And the entire process is natural too.
A bat’s guano contains:
- 10% nitrogen
- 3% phosphorous
- 1% potassium
Given these percentages and the fact that guano has no fillers, unlike other fertilizers, it can last in the majority of soil types for a prolonged period of time and has the capability of enhancing your flower, plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits.
Bats are excellent pollinators.
Who would have thought that bats and bees have something in common? It is always surprising and incredibly interesting to witness nature’s wonders. Both these nocturnal animals and the extremely smart insects that produce honey are attracted to the nectar of plants.
Interestingly enough, you could say that they work in shifts – when bees go back to their hives during nighttime, bats come and take over the task of pollinating. Therefore, there is one more reason, apart from the ones mentioned above, you shouldn’t be afraid if you notice these fantastic nocturnal creatures in your garden. Not only will they get rid of unwanted pests and insects and enrich and enhance your garden collection, but they are also excellent pollinators.
Simple methods used to attract bats to gardens
It is of the utmost importance to learn how to attract bats to your garden if you want to take advantage of the many benefits and contributions they bring to plants and the environment in general. Indeed, some bats may still come to your garden even if you don’t particularly use any methods to attract them.
However, if you want them to eliminate unwanted pests, pollinate and enhance your plants, it is crucial to welcome more than just a few bats. In this case, the necessary thing is to put some of the following methods into practice.
To put it simply, these nocturnal animals have the exact same basic needs as all the other small animals: food, water and shelter. So, here’s how to provide the ideal environment for them so they are attracted to your garden:
Give them shelter, and install a bat house.
These incredible nocturnal animals need a habitat, just as any other animal on this planet. For this reason, it is vital to encourage them to come into your garden by providing a bat house that accommodates and meets their needs. Not to mention that bats are suffering more and more from habitat loss. Therefore, you providing one is undoubtedly an excellent incentive for them to come.
But how do you know what makes a bat house an ideal habitat for them? Keep the following characteristics in mind when you shop for a bat house or if you decide to build one from scratch.
- Know the measurements: a bat house should be at least two feet (60 cm) tall and 14 inches (35 cm) wide. You can actually opt for bigger measurements, as that means more bats are welcomed to your garden.
- The bat house should have an opening at the bottom. This way, you avoid having any guano buildup.
- It is crucial for bat houses to have small vents on the sides as well as on the front. This is necessary for good air circulation.
- Ideally, it should be featured in a dark colour so that it can absorb energy and warmth from the sun. Plus, bats thrive in hot temperatures, which is why you should place the bat house somewhere it can receive direct sunlight.
With the key characteristics mentioned, you are one step closer to drawing bats’ attention. But the more you do to attract them, the higher the chances they will come, and in large numbers, so that your garden can be pest-free and thriving.
Make sure they have a water source
Now that your bats have an excellent habitat where they can live, it is essential to offer them a clean water source that is accessible to them. Don’t worry; this isn’t too difficult to provide. Because bats usually go to open bodies of water when they are in the wild, such as ponds or lakes, all you have to do is install a garden pond that is surrounded by short pond plants. This way, the bats will be compelled to visit your garden and move in.
Add night-blooming flowers to your garden
It isn’t surprising that night-blooming flowers attract these nocturnal animals. So, suppose you want to go the extra mile after you have provided them excellent habitat and a water source. In that case, you should consider planting night-loving flowers like datura, moonflower and yucca. A suggestion would be to place them by the water pond you install in your garden.
Interesting facts about bats
Last but not least, we couldn’t talk about bats and how beneficial they are to your garden without discussing some of the most interesting facts about bats. These wonderful nocturnal animals are surely one of a kind. Not only is their contribution utterly beneficial to nature, but they are also captivating.
Here are some interesting facts about bats:
- Bats can be found in pretty much any type of habitat from cities and suburban communities, to deserts, woodlands, and caves. They can use a wide range of structures to create homes but their favourites are trees, caves, cracks and crevasses, bridges, abandoned buildings, and attics.
- Most bats are insectivores which means that their diets consist mostly of beetles, mosquitoes, moths, leafhoppers, crickets, etc. But some bats are frugivores, so they eat fruit, seeds, and pollen, and some of their favourite fruits are dates, bananas, figs, and mangoes.
- Yes, some bats drink blood – these bats are called vampire bats, but they are not as scary as you might think. There are only three types of vampire bats and they are only found in Central and South America. Also, their diet consists of cow, sheep, or horse blood, not human blood. They only drink about two teaspoons of blood per day and will usually get it from sleeping animals without being noticed.
- Most species of bats live around 20 years in the wild, but scientists have found that some species can live for over 30 years. A tiny bat from Siberia broke the longevity record in 2006, at age 41.
- Bats are the only mammals that can fly. What’s more, they represent a quarter of the mammal population worldwide.
- There are about one thousand bat species in the world, and 70% of them only eat insects. Some species can feed on around 600 mosquitoes every hour.
- There are 18 species of bats in the UK and the most common ones are the soprano pipistrelles and common pipistrelles. Other types of bats that are common in the UK are Daubenton’s bat, Noctule bat (Britain’s largest bat), Serotine bat, and the brown long-eared bat.
- There are 47 species of bats in the US and the most common are the hoary bat, the big brown bat and the little brown bat, the northern long-eared bat, the California leaf-nosed bat, and the Brazilian free-tailed bat.
- The cutest and most popular bats on Instagram are probably the fruit bats (you can easily find them by searching #fruitbat). There are 197 different species of fruit bats, also known as flying foxes or megabats. A few notable examples of fruit bats are the Mariana fruit bat, the Egyptian fruit bat, the Indian fruit bat, and the lesser short-nosed fruit bat.
- Peter’s dwarf epauletted fruit bat is incredibly cute as well, and so are the Honduran white bat and the greater false vampire bat.
- As mentioned earlier in the article, bats are capable of eating one quarter to half of their body weight in pests and insects. More interestingly, a nursing female bat can consume an extra amount – more than her body weight every night.
- Thanks to being nocturnal animals, bats don’t have many natural predators. The only animals that are a threat to bats are hawks, owls, and snakes. The biggest enemies of bats, however, are white noise disease, humans, and habitat loss.
- The common misconception is that all bats spread rabies. This sounds scarier than it is, as only 5 of the 45 species of bats found in the US have ever transmitted rabies to humans. These five species are the silver-haired bat, the big brown bat, and the Mexican free-tailed bat. The other two species have not been identified. In Europe, most countries are considered rabies-free, but the important thing to mention here is that bats transmit a different type of rabies than other animals. In any case, the incidence of the disease being transmitted to humans is very low
It can be safely assumed that bats are extremely intelligent creatures. Not only are they beneficial to gardens, being able to keep plants healthy and support their growth, but they are also fascinating in how much they can consume and how particular their characteristics are. And, let’s admit it, some of the bat species out there are pretty adorable-looking.
What to do if you found a bat?
On rare occasions, bats land or get stuck in places where they aren’t welcome such as on a balcony, a garage, or an attic. The first thing that you need to remember is that you should never touch a bat with your bare hands, regardless of how harmless it looks. Experts also advise against trying to rehabilitate a bat on your own as that could put both you and the animal at risk.
As mentioned above the percentage of bats that have rabies is actually very small – around 0.5%. Bats that catch the disease are not on a mission to spread said disease to humans. Their main concern is finding a secluded location where they eventually die. The only way that rabies can be transmitted from bats to humans is through biting, so you won’t get sick by seeing a bat in your attic, having contact with bat faeces (guano), or other bodily fluids, or touching the fur of a bat (although you shouldn’t touch a bat). If you are bitten by a bat or you suspect that some of its bodily fluids got into your eyes or mouth, you should seek medical attention immediately. In these situations, the best course of action is to get tested for rabies.
If you find a bat indoors, take a moment to analyze the situation. In most cases, these bats are youngsters that get lost or migrating bats. These bats are scared and their main goal is to find their way out and they can only do so if they find an open window or a door. If you are dealing with a scared bat that is flying around, turn the lights off and use a flashlight to guide it towards the exit. If you can’t do this, it’s time to consider another option – catching the bat.
A bat that is flying is impossible to catch and you shouldn’t attempt this unless the animal is motionless. So it is recommended to leave the room and return when the bat has landed and is standing still. Wear a pair of protective gloves (or a thick towel) and approach the animal quietly. Once you pick it up gently, place it in a box or a container that has a lid and breathing holes. If you catch the bat at night, you can set it free outside, if you catch it during the day, you should wait for nightfall. If the bat doesn’t fly away, it might be too young, dehydrated, starved, sick, or injured. In this situation, place the bat back in the container and call a wildlife rehabilitator or a veterinarian.
Certain types of bats, such as foliage-roosting bats, can sometimes fall on the ground. This is more likely to happen in early summer when females move their young, after storms, or when they are attacked by birds. These bats are usually scared and might make hissy sounds and spread their wings when approached. The first step is keeping it safe from predators by standing guard or asking someone to do it. If the bat is quiet and still, you can try to put it back in the tree. To do so, put on protective gloves, and use a small tree branch. Place it near its feet, as this will trigger its instincts of grabbing on. If the bat looks healthy, slowly move it towards the branches of a nearby tree.
This is a process that requires a lot of patience and a steady hand, as sudden moves might scare off the bat. If you are dealing with a foliage-roosting bat, you can try to put it back in the tree. It is recommended to place the bats at least 2.5 meters high from the ground, so you might have to use a ladder. Do not place the bats in a place where they’d be vulnerable to other animals, near birds’ nests, or on tree trunks. Monitor the area to check if the bats are alright. If the bat shows signs of distress or if a female bat has left and abandoned her babies, it’s best to call a specialist.
If you feel unequipped to deal with a bat be it outdoors or indoors, the best thing you can do is to call a specialist. For example, in the UK you can call the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228.
Now that you know bats are so beneficial, there is no denying that your perception of them has changed. And, if you already knew this information, chances are you are more convinced than ever that your garden will thrive thanks to the contribution bats have to them and the environment. Many gardeners adopt eco-friendly methods when they are growing and taking care of their plants, trees, herbs and so on. For this reason, they try as much as possible to avoid using any pesticides or insecticides that contain toxic chemicals and can harm the environment.
By attracting bats to your garden, you essentially use the world’s natural pest controllers. They get to have an ideal habitat – which they, unfortunately, lack more and more every day – and you get to have a thriving pest-free garden. Indeed, it may take a while until your bat house is fully occupied. But your small colony of bats will form itself slowly but surely, with them taking care of your plants and flowers. Just remember that you should never touch them with your Bare hands, regardless of how cute and safe they might seem, to protect them from predators when possible, and to treat them with kindness.
Are you a bat lover? Have you already started attracting bats to your garden? If so, please let us know how the entire experience has been for you.