Since I was a child, a favorite pastime on summer nights has been to watch bats fly over an open patio. He would lay me down on the shaggy grass and watch them hunt, admiring their acrobatics. If she listened closely and the night was calm, she could hear a few wingbeats, and maybe a screech here and there.
Now, as an adult, I keep an eye out for bats during the summer. When I see them, I feel the same sense of wonder that I experienced when I was young. I was lucky enough to have a few perched behind the shutters of an old apartment building, right outside my window.
And when I lived in Arizona, I would visit an old bridge in the city that was home to a colony of thousands. They would all take flight at roughly the same time, following the first one bold enough to enter the twilight sky.
Bats have always been a welcome part of my life and encouraged by the residents of my garden. They offer a tremendous benefit to the garden and the neighborhood, and are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. However, like many creatures these modern days, they are beset by a number of challenges to their continued existence.
Read on for a nice, short overview of the benefits bats provide, the threats they face, and finally, a guide on how to attract bats to live in your yard and close to home. Now, let’s get to it!
How To Attract Bats To Your House Effectively
Nuisance insects are out there spreading disease and raiding orchards. Bats are great insect hunters and serve as a fantastic organic method of pest control. Other benefit; Bat droppings, or guano, act like a nutrient-dense fertilizer, making your garden thrive like never before. How to attract bats will be key to preserving your garden.
Bats Eagerly Eat Bugs
Yes, that is correct. And not just any mistake. Bats prefer mosquitoes and other flying insects.
The next time you’re shopping for citronella candles, geraniums, and other mosquito deterrent products, consider giving some flying friends a home. In exchange for helping your local ecosystem by providing a cozy home, you receive 100% natural flying insect control in return.
The typical bat weighs about half an ounce or 15 grams. They must eat at least ¼ of their body weight every night to survive, and pregnant females eat up to their full body weight. When you consider the minuscule and almost insignificant weight of the average mosquito, you can imagine how many nasty insects a single bat can devour in one night.
Now consider that they also live together in colonies, and you have powerful automatic insect control.
There are a host of other benefits to having these critters in your garden, but this one takes the cake, as far as I’m concerned.
Get Your Facts Straight
There are 44 species that live in North America, some of which are endangered and others that are listed as species of concern. They are facing this increasing level of decline due to environmental and man-made stresses.
In 2007, in caves in New York, bats were first found to be infected with white-nose syndrome. It is a disease caused by a fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans that is often found around the nose.
The disease causes animals to deplete their stored energy during winter hibernation. Because they live in colonies, it tends to spread rapidly, resulting in some population losses of over 90%.
It is difficult for bat populations to recover because they have only one offspring each year and typically live to be 5 to 10 years old.
Despite the common comparison, bats are nothing like rodents. Mice, rats, and other rodents tend to be short-lived and reproduce in massive numbers, while each offspring produced is a huge investment for the bat.
Man-made stresses also have an impact on total population counts. The common belief is that bats are rabies-infested devils always looking for a good head of hair to tangle with.
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I blame 80’s movies for this stereotype.
Unfortunately, bats have been targeted for extermination by humans on many levels. Their natural habitats are increasingly being targeted by humans for security reasons: shutting down old mines that are used as colony homes, or cutting down dead trees on which they can roost.
Faced with environmental hazards and pressure from humans, they may find themselves in an increasingly risky situation. Fortunately, we can help and, in the process, rid our garden of legions of mosquitoes.
Making Your Garden Attractive
Bats need access to water. This could be as simple as a fountain, or even a birdbath.
Compost piles and water sources can attract the insects they like to feed on, making them beneficial to bats. If you’re not composting yet, here’s one more reason to!
Consider leaving some of the less destructive caterpillars in the garden as well. They will eventually turn into moths, at least some of which are destined to be eaten by a hungry bat.
If You Build It, Bats Might Come
The ideal solution to inviting bats into your garden is to allow them to find natural homes. After all, the point of building a DIY shelter is to closely mimic the natural environment they prefer…so why not provide that kind of environment?
Bats will naturally find their home in the loose bark of trees, cavities in a trunk, or cracks in branches. If it is safe to keep a tree in these conditions in your garden, it is already a perfect place for them to perch.
Although bats have been flying for tens of millions of years, the practice of building houses for them is a nascent practice. Unfortunately, they don’t search for apartments or homes with a handy internet search, so there’s no telling if they’ll move into the house you create.
Depending on who you ask, the wooden structure will remain intact for a variety of reasons: the structure isn’t big enough, or the location isn’t perfect, or local wildlife has already roosted in different dwellings. It is a possibility that the structure will never be inhabited.
But just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. The worst case scenario when building one of these structures is that you will have a fun afternoon and then have an interesting topic of conversation for visitors. But you might get lucky and give some bats in need a home.
Make a DIY Shelter
Building your own bat box at home to encourage local night fliers to come and roost isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
In fact, if you already live in the area, this is a great weekend project!
With a few basic materials and tools (nothing more than a battery-powered drill is required, unless you want to get fancy with your woodwork or decorations) you can build your own.
If you’re not quite ready to embark on the homemade route yet, our tutorial also includes some suggestions for out-of-the-box options that you might enjoy.
Enjoy the wildlife
I love watching the local wildlife in my area, and nothing beats the natural pest control that bats provide. They are part of our local ecosystem and nothing to fear. In fact, they are quite amazing!
Don’t forget to share your own experiences and questions with Answer The Question in the comments below.