Bats aren’t just for Halloween anymore. Their reputation as ghoulish, bloodsucking, disease-carrying rodents is unjustified. They are as beneficial to our environment as birds and bees. But since they do their work at night, they don’t get the appreciation they deserve. Bats provide fantastic, organic pest-control, consuming insects with incredible efficiency. In one night, these hardworking heroes can eat more than 1000 mosquitoes or 60 moths.
North America has about 50 kinds of native bats. They continue to face grave danger from habitat loss, pesticides, and white-nose syndrome (WNS) – an invasive fungal disease that strikes during hibernation. These challenges are pushing several species toward extinction. Although humans are to blame for most of these problems, individuals can also be part of the solution. Adding a few habitat features can turn a yard into a bat oasis, providing resources to boost resilience and to help them survive. Plus, their presence can lead to a healthier garden and let you enjoy your time outdoors without as many annoying insects.
How to Attract Bats
It’s easy to create an environment that will attract bats. Instead of just one thing, create a variety of attractions they’ll seek out. Like any mammal, bats need food, water, and shelter to thrive. Besides insects, their favorite foods include a mix of flowers and fruit. Native plants are their primary food source. Night-blooming flowers provide nectar and will also give your yard another level of beauty (think moon garden!). Some great night-bloomers include datura, Moonflower, Four O’Clock, Yucca, Evening Primrose, Night-Blooming Water Lily, Night-Blooming Jessamine, Cleome, and Nicotiana.
A water source can be as simple as a continuously filled birdbath, a bubbling water feature, or a pond. Water will attract insects as well as provide a place for bats to quench their thirst. Lastly, shelter is essential for nesting and hibernation. Bats often choose sites in abandoned buildings, hollow trees, under a building’s eves, and loose tree bark. However, a simple and effective way to attract them is to create a bat house.
Build a Bat House
Bat houses can take many forms, from small backyard boxes to free-standing towers that support large colonies. You can find plans for bat houses online from Bat Conservation International (BCI) or the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Since bats are picky, BCI suggests looking for vendors with its Bat Approved certification.
Bat houses work best if they’re at least 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide, and 3 inches deep. Hang them 10 to 15 feet above the ground and in a sunny spot where they can absorb lots of heat during the day. Painting the boxes black is helpful. Mount the houses on poles, buildings, or other structures. Be patient, and allow time for bats to discover the house. Spring and early summer are typically the best times when they are most likely to visit.
Bats play an important role in the ecological food web and shouldn’t be forgotten. Keep them in mind when you’d like to add more habitat and reduce insects in your yard.