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There are more than 1400 species of bat around the world and as many as 47 of these are native to North America. These fascinating creatures have gotten something of a bad rep thanks to Halloween and horror movies but they’re actually super interesting.
If you’re looking for a way to attract them to your backyard, this guide tells you everything you need to know.
Why Attract Bats to Your Yard?
You might not think so, but bats are incredibly beneficial creatures so it’s important to attract them to your backyard. Not only are they excellent pollinators and will help control pests, but by giving them a safe space, you’ll also help to reduce problems for endangered species.
Bats are Great Pollinators
If you were asked to name a pollinator, you’d probably say a butterfly, a bee, or even a hummingbird. But bats are also fantastic pollinators, and it is believed that as many as 500 plant species rely on bats alone for pollination. One plant that is particularly interesting and pollinated by bats is the agave which is used for creating tequila. So next time you’re sipping on a drink in a bar, just remember you have bats to thank.
They are Natural Pest Controllers
There are a lot of insects that are beneficial to your garden but there are also many that can cause problems. Since bats feed on many things like mayflies, moths, lacewing flies, and pesky mosquitoes, they’re actually doing you a favor where pest control is concerned.
In the US, the most common bat species is the little brown bat, and these creatures can eat a whopping 8000 insects in just one night. If you’ve had a pest problem, they’ll almost certainly deal with it for you.
Bats Help to Fertilize your Garden
We are often in search of organic matter that can help our gardens thrive. But did you know that bat droppings, which are called guano, are incredibly nutrient-rich and can give your garden a real boost? What’s great about it is that it doesn’t have a strong odor and works very quickly. Moreover, guano can be used in a versatile number of ways whether that’s mixing it into the soil when planting or adding it down the line.
Guano will serve your garden in many ways. It is known for its ability to condition the soil, and it will also help improve drainage. What’s more, it works at controlling pests like nematodes in the soil, keeping it healthier.
Many Bat Species are Endangered
Sadly, a lot of bat species are already endangered. Out of the 1400 worldwide species, as many as 200 of these are considered to be endangered. One such example of this is the common little brown bat that is prevalent across North America.
These bats are more reliant on humans than ever to provide them with a safe space to shelter and breed since their natural habitats are less and less. Something as simple as installing a bat box in your garden could go a long way in protecting these precious creatures.
Without bats, our local ecosystems will suffer, and since they are so important when it comes to things like pest control and pollination, we want to help them thrive as much as possible.
How to Make a Bat-Friendly Yard
Now that we understand the importance of inviting bats into our gardens, we need to know how to get them there in the first place. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to attract bats.
Plant Night-Scented & Nectar-Rich Flowers
One of the most important things you can do to bring bats to your garden is to plant a variety of night-scented and nectar-rich flowers. Not only do bats pollinate these types of plants, but they will also draw in things like moths which the bats will feed on.
It is worth looking at what plants grow locally and matching what you grow in your garden with this, as it will be a natural continuation of the bat’s habitat. While there are several species of flower you could consider, the following seem to be the most effective.
- Evening primrose
- Night blooming jasmine
Provide Bats a Place to Roost
One of the reasons that bats are becoming endangered is owing to the lack of natural habitats and spaces to roost. If you want to attract bats to your yard then the simple addition of a bat house could draw them in. Bats will use these boxes to raise their pups as well as for somewhere to sleep during the day. What’s great is that you will also be able to observe the bats and learn more about them right from the comfort of your own home.
It is possible to purchase a ready-made bat house, but many people choose to make them as a DIY project. Either is fine as long as there is a vent at the top, that said, the box should not be draughty as this isn’t something bats like.
If you are making a bat box, you should opt for a rectangular shape with a small opening at the bottom and a bat ladder. The wood should be textured as this gives the bats something to grip onto, cedar is a good option. Also, keep in mind that you should not treat the wood with any paints, stains, or other wood treatments. That said, you can paint the outer part of the bat box in black as this will help to retain heat. Bats will be more likely to stay in a box that has a consistent temperature so this can help.
When building your bat box remember to keep the opening slit large enough to allow bats in but small enough to keep out predators. Generally speaking, anything between 15mm and 20mm should be enough. Once you have installed your bat box, it is actually illegal to open it again without a proper licence, so make sure everything is set up just right so there won’t be any need to tamper with it down the line.
Keep Pets Inside at Night
Bats are nocturnal animals, so it is extremely unlikely you will ever see them during the day. However, when they emerge during the hours of darkness, you need to make sure that you limit the number of threats they are exposed to.
If you have pets such as dogs and cats, these animals may prey on or attack bats, so it is best to keep them indoors at night. Cats are one of the biggest causes of fatalities in bats, so it’s especially important to keep them indoors. If you absolutely cannot keep them indoors all night, then avoid letting them out for thirty minutes before sunset and up to sixty minutes after, as this is when the bats will be most active.
You could also consider putting a collar with a bell on your cat as this will give the bats some warning of their presence. While cats will not typically eat bats, they can cause serious injury, not just through bites and other wounds but by infections getting into the bat’s bloodstream through the cat’s saliva.
Switch Off Artificial Lighting in Your Yard
Having a lot of artificial lighting in your yard may look pretty and help you to see when you’re outside at night, but it can be problematic for bats. You see, these animals come out to hunt when the light is low. If there is a large presence of garden lights, this can confuse them and mess with their natural schedule.
For this reason, it is advisable to turn off artificial lighting in your garden or at the very least, turn them to the lowest setting or cover them to reduce how much illumination they emit.
Install Water Features
Water is beneficial to all wildlife and that doesn’t exclude bats. If you are looking to attract them to your garden, installing water features such as a pond can help enormously. Since bats drink by swooping down, taking a sip, and flying off again, it is best to have water features with a larger surface area as well as something that is easily accessible and not obstructed.
But not only does a water feature ensure that the bats have water to drink, but it will also attract various insects and aquatic larvae which serve as a food source for the bats.
One important thing to keep in mind when installing a water feature is that bats do need a way to escape should they fall in. It is not uncommon for them to drown when they do not have a way out of the water.
Avoid Using Pesticides
As we have learned, bats feast on a range of insects and bugs but by using pesticides, this can drastically reduce insect populations, leaving the bats with very little food. If there is not a food source, bats will be less likely to visit your garden.
While many of us have come to rely on chemical pesticides, there are other natural alternatives by attracting bugs like lacewings, ladybugs, and centipedes to your yards, they will deal with infestations of things such as aphids. The bats will then feed on these predatory insects, keeping their populations under control.
Avoid Mowing Your Lawn too Frequently
We know that having a perfectly manicured garden might look the part but it certainly is no place for a thriving wildlife population. We aren’t saying that you should never mow your lawn but do you really need to cut it once a week and have it so short?
By ensuring that the grass grows a little longer, this provides a better habitat for insects, which, as we know, are an important food source for bats. Even if you aren’t keen on the idea of having your entire lawn a bit longer, you could dedicate a small patch in a hidden corner of the garden for your insect population.
It’s also important to compost any organic waste. Make sure that if you use a compost bin, you choose one with an open side to allow insects to get in and out. Your compost will encourage species like spiders, snails and slugs. Plus, you can use the compost on your soil to encourage worms which contribute to healthier soil.
When Is the Best Time of the Year to Install a Bat House?
Bats come out of hibernation during the spring so it is a good idea to install your bat house in preparation for this. There is a much higher chance that the bat house will be used during the first roosting summer following installation if you install it in time for their arrival.
That said, there is no reason that you cannot install a bat house at any time of the year. Just keep in mind that, in some cases, your house may go unused for a couple of years until bats have located it. It pays to be patient.
A final note on choosing the right time to install a bat house relates to moving bats out of your home, for example, in the attic. If you are going to evict them, you must make sure that you have installed your bat house at least two weeks prior to this, as the bats will have time to take a look around and explore their new home.
Where to Install a Bat House in Your Yard?
If you want the greatest success from your bat house, then it is essential to put it in a suitable location. Failing to do this may mean that bats cannot find it or do not wish to use it. Here are some useful tips on bat house placement.
There is a common misconception that bats have terrible eyesight but this is not true. Their eyes are designed to see much better than humans in low light, but that doesn’t mean that a bat house shouldn’t be placed so that the bat has a clear line of sight to it.
The bat house should also be placed on a pole or under the eaves of a building. You should never place a bat house in a tree as it would be too easily accessible to predators. In any case, it is a wise idea to use some sort of predator cover for optimum protection.
Moreover, putting the bat house on a pole gives it more exposure to sun which is important in keeping the internal temperature consistent. You should aim to find a spot that receives at least six hours of full sun a day. Furthermore, there should be a water source no more than ¼ mile from the bat house.
That said, you must make sure that the location isn’t so exposed that the bat house receives winds or draughts. This includes placing the bat house at the top of a hill which is much more open to winds.
The pole for your bat house should be at least 12 feet above the ground, up to around 20 feet, as this will allow the bats good clearance when they fly in. However, make sure that the structure is kept as far from things like wires and trees as possible, with 20 feet being the absolute closest we would recommend placing one.
How Do I Know If My Bat House is Being Used?
Since it is not legal to open a bat house once it has been set up, it can be tricky to know if there are any resident bats using it. Moreover, even if you were to open the house, there would be a risk of startling the bats, and while they are unlikely to attack, there’s always a possibility.
The best way to know whether your bat house is in use is to watch it at night. You will see the bats coming in and out. Not only is this a very telling sign that the box is being used, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to see these beautiful creatures in all their glory.
If you don’t notice any bat activity at night, you could check the surrounding area of the house. If there are bat droppings or urine stains, then it’s highly likely that there are some bats present.
How to Maintain a Bat House?
While bats are roosting in your bat house, it is vital not to disturb them. If you have to open the box, you should do so with a licensed professional.
However, once the bats move out for the winter, you may need to perform a little maintenance. This might include repairing any broken parts, giving the outside a new lick of paint, and re caulking the seams.
You may also notice that wasps have set up a nest inside the bat house. Use a flashlight to check for their presence, and if necessary, you will have to remove them.
While some tasks like repainting may only need to be done every few years, you will need to clean your bat box after each roosting season is over. You can do this by scraping out any droppings using a stick.