Experts say that with all the wet weather in many parts of the country this year, most of us can expect a bad year for mosquitoes. But rather than have them ruin your outdoor activities this summer, why not invite beneficial bats to your backyard for chemical-free pest control?
More often than not, bats get a bad rap. People think of these little creatures as blood-sucking, flying rodents, and it’s quite undeserved. In fact, these night-flying mammals are gentle, do their best to avoid human contact, and actually have a lower incidence of rabies infection than other wild animals. So why would you want them lingering around your home and garden? Bats are actually great garden companions because they are wonderful at controlling unwanted pests.
Bats: Natural Pest Controller
The little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, is the most common species of bat in North America. These bats are insectivores, meaning their diet consists primarily of insects, and luckily for us, they have a voracious appetite. Bats can greatly reduce the population of mosquitoes and other bothersome insects that ruin your backyard activities, such as moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, midges, and mayflies. A single bat can consume more than 1,200 mosquito-sized insects per hour, usually eating 6,000 to 8,000 bugs each night!
How To Attract Beneficial Bats
To take advantage of the bat’s contribution to nature there are many ways to lure bats. Bats, like all animals, need food, water, and shelter. Since your yard and garden will provide them with their favorite meal—insects—all you will need to provide is water and shelter.
Bats generally seek shelter in secluded cracks and crevices, like in hollow trees, under loose bark, in caves, or in cracks of rocky ledges. In more populated areas they can bunk in attics, behind shutters, and in storm sewers. Bats are not inclined to chew holes in your home’s attic. However, if there are holes, they can gain access. Basically, bats like dark, tight, warm spots.
Fun Fact: Baby bats are called “pups”
Bat houses can be purchased at many home and garden centers or can be easily built in an afternoon. There are many how-to web sites, as well as free downloadable bat house plans available on the internet.
Bats also need a clean and accessible water source. They usually swoop down over open bodies of water to take a drink, such as lakes, ponds or streams. Consider building a garden pond with small plants on opposite sides. If you are short on space, a raised birdbath in an open space may suffice.
Bats feed on insects that are active at night, so in order to attract those insects, it may be beneficial to include plants that bloom at night or that have a pronounced nighttime fragrance, such as Evening Primrose, moonflower, datura, four-o’clock primrose, night-blooming water lily, night-blooming Jessamine, cleome, and nicotiana.
Bottom Line: Don’t let the myths of these nocturnal mammals turn you off. These misunderstood creatures can be of great use to control pest populations in your garden. Respect the bat’s ecological importance and consider making a place for them in your backyard.
Natalie LaVolpe is a freelance writer and former special education teacher. She is dedicated to healthy living through body and mind. She currently resides on Long Island, New York, with her husband, children, and dog.