Some people are afraid of bats because of all the stories often told about them. Fortunately the scary stories about bats are not true and it is quite safe to have these creatures in your yard. They will not attack you to suck your blood and they won’t get caught in your hair. If you want to know what attracts bats to your garden then I guess you know that they are very helpful little creatures and you want to see them flitting about in the evening sky.
Why you need bats in your garden
Normally bats fly around at night and sleep during the day. Sometimes they will fly around during the day if they are disturbed, but will quickly settle down again to sleep.
Most bats eat insects, lots of them. They catch insects while they are flying around and one bat can catch and eat more than 600 mosquitoes in one hour. That’s a lot of mosquitoes! Now just think what a few bats can achieve in one night. Mosquitoes are not their only food, they will also feed on other insects that fly around at night.
How bats catch their prey
Bats use something called echo-location to find and catch their prey. It can be compared to a radar system and works in a similar way.
The bats make a high-pitched sound and then listen to the echo that comes back to them. In this way they very quickly and accurately find the insects to catch.
How to attract bats to your garden
It is going to be easier to attract bats to come and feast in your garden than it will be to have them actually come and live and breed in your yard. Hopefully there are bats in your area already that you can try to attract to your yard.
To start with you will need some night-flowing plants that will attract insects at night. You should already have a lot of insects if you have plants that attract them, so you just need to give them some night-time flowers to visit after dark. Think of it as insect night-clubs.
A pond is also a great place for insects to congregate and the bats will soon discover this and you will see them swooping down over the pond to catch these insects. If you have insects flying around at night and there are bats in the area then there is a good chance that they will find their dinner in your garden.
Bat houses or bat boxes
Bats need shelter during the day when they sleep. Their natural homes are normally in tall trees and behind loose bark on the trunks of trees. They will also sleep in abandoned buildings, under the eaves of buildings and in your roof if there is a place for them to get in. A bat box can be used to give these creatures a home in your yard.
A bat box needs to be made of rough wood that the bats can easily hold on to for climbing on. Make sure that the wood you use is non-toxic and not chemically treated. The best size for a bat box is 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide and 3 inches deep with an opening at the bottom. They need to be placed between 10 and 15 feet off the ground and can be mounted on just about any secure object such as a tree, a pole or a wall. It is best to have them on the side facing the sun. This will give them warmth during the day.
Make your own bat house
Many children like outdoor projects, I know my boys do. So why not plan a weekend project and help the children build their own bat house. Not only will they enjoy the project, but they will spend a lot of time looking out for bats in the evening sky in the hope that they will setup home in the house they built. This is always a great way to get children to take an interest in nature and learn more about the wildlife in your area.
You can design your own (bats are very forgiving and won't be too fussy) or you can buy a kit like the one in the picture.
Warning: don’t handle wild animals
It is always best to be careful with wild animals and don’t handle them. Bats can and do bite, so you want to leave any handling to the experts. It is quite unlikely that you will get the opportunity to hold a bat, but if you need to rescue one be careful not to use your hands in case you get bitten.
Cheap and natural insect control
Attracting bats to your garden must be one of the most effective natural insect control methods around. A little bit of planning for a night garden and you should be able to have some free help to keep the insect numbers down.
Do you have a bat box in your yard? How long did it take before bats started using it for shelter?
There is also some great information about bats and the different species of bats on WikiPedia. It gets quite scientific but has some interesting information.