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.
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.
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”
Take a listen to the sounds little brown bats make: