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Attract Beneficial Bats To Your Garden

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Attract Beneficial Bats To Your Garden

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. They 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 mosquitos and other bothersome insects that ruin your backyard activities, such as moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, midges and mayflies. Bats are known to consume more than 600 mosquitos per hour, or half their body weight in insects each night.

Bats For Fertilizer

Bats do much more than keep the insect population at bay. Their excrement is also an excellent organic fertilizer. Bat guano, as it’s called, has a long history as a soil enricher. Bat guano is low in odor and works to make plants and lawns green and healthy because it’s rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which aid in plant growth. It can be used to enrich soil when used as a top dressing, or by making a “tea” and using it with regular watering practices for deep root feeding.

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To make bat guano tea for your garden, simply let it sit it in water overnight (generally 1 cup of guano per gallon of water), then water your plants with the mixture. This natural and safe plant enhancer can be used on flowers, ornamentals, vegetables and herbs.

Due to the increased use of pesticides and habitat loss, bat populations are declining in most areas. By creating a bat-friendly garden and yard, not only will the bat population benefit, but you will also be doing good on a grander scale.

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.

Bat Houses

If the idea of bats taking up residence in your attic doesn’t sit well with you, consider adding a bat house. 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.

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.

Fun Fact: Baby bats are called “pups”

Learn more facts about bats here!

Take a listen to the sounds little brown bats make: 

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1 BeBe { 10.24.16 at 11:13 am }

I bought a bat box at a local craft fair….currently researching where/how to install…..I’m also interested in planting a Bat Garden for spring, but I’m having a hard time finding info for what to plant for zone 7.
Any suggestions?

2 Kathi King { 05.28.16 at 10:59 pm }

Have wanted to put bat houses up and attract some bats, mainly for mosquito control. Summer in Oklahoma, you know. My concern is a water source. We have a creek on one side of the neighborhood but it’s a couple miles away. I was interested in the bird bath idea. Would that keep them around? Or should we put the little pond in? One is obviously less expensive. Thanks for your help.

3 Crystal S { 04.17.16 at 10:20 am }

Last year we were lucky to have at least 3 bats around. They did an admazing job with mosquito control. The problems is all the Earth for miles around is sprayed with pest control because it’s farm feilds. Our own lawn doesn’t even grow dandelions due to a chemical treatment they use. I hope to build a few bat houses to keep and attract more but is it even safe for them here?

4 Vicki Deveny { 07.31.15 at 3:08 pm }

Is it possible to attract bats if we don’t know if they even live in our area? In Texas as far as I know, they live in Austin and other parts of the hill country. But since we don’t have hills or caves here in west central TX, I don’t think there are even any bats around. I would love to have them, though. We have too many mosquitoes right now.

5 Paula Dupree { 07.31.15 at 10:11 am }

What does bat droppings look like ?

6 Susan Higgins { 07.29.15 at 8:53 am }

Hi Megan, people can be at risk of histoplasmosis from pigeon droppings as well; the incidence of histoplasmosis being transmitted from bat droppings to humans is not thought to be high. Nevertheless, fresh bat droppings (unlike fresh bird dropping) can contain (but not always) the histoplasmosis fungus and it would need to be inhaled for you to be infected. Bat guano for use as fertilizer has been in practice for many years, recommended by many top gardening sources, and only requires a small amount. Should you want to make a fertilizer, and are concerned, you can wear a mask when gathering the guano.

7 Megan { 07.27.15 at 10:15 pm }

What about the dangers of bat guano making you sick? Histoplasmosis?

8 Susan Bentley { 07.27.15 at 6:16 pm }

I dont want to make anyone mad but can u tell me if u can buy bats to get them started in my neck of the woods

9 Bras Fashbaugh { 07.27.15 at 6:03 pm }

@ Marcella Ford:

Great question and it’s always good to see people wanting to help animals. It depends on the state in which you live. You can do several things.

1. Always wear good garden work gloves to proteCT yourself and the bat. Try to scoop it into a box with a lid if handy or wrap carefully in a towel.

2. If it isn’t severely injured or may have been misplaced from the nest, you can put it behind your shutters or in a crack of a tree or near some loose bark on a tree, it’ll crawl up in there and be sheltered until evening.

3. Look up or contact your local state’s ecology office, department of natural resources, wildlife or fish/game office, or any licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialists. There are several helpful pieces of information to help you get started when you type thus information into Google search…again it is going to depend on the state you live in.

4. Look up local bat or animal removal specialists in your local phone book. These people are trained to handle wildlife safely and often will find a home or a way to care for beneficial animals like bats.

Good luck and thank you again for wanting to help an injured bat.

10 Marcella Ford { 07.27.15 at 4:54 pm }

What if you find a bat that might be injured on the ground? What can we do to help them?

11 Susan Higgins { 07.29.15 at 8:46 am }

Sandy Schreiber: Wonderful! Thank you!

12 Sandy Schreiber { 07.27.15 at 4:51 pm }

Thank you for this article. I’ve always been curious about bats and now I know I wasn’t wrong to be. I love these little little critters. They are so interesting and seem so delicate up close. I knew there was more to them than the average eye sees. I am going to make moves toward making our small area more bat friendly.

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