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Why Families Should Encourage Bats to their Garden

Bats for so long have been associated with the Halloween season for various reasons such as movies portraying vampires having the ability to turn into bats, or bats helping witches to fly and people often find them scary, but we don’t think that should be the case, so we thought we would share some reasons to why families should actually be encouraging bats into their garden.

Bat Basics

Bats are mammals whose forelimbs become wings and amazingly they are the only mammals that can properly fly and not just glide, in fact some bats are more supple in the air than most birds and according to new research can reach speeds over 100 miles per hour.

Bats can be found in pretty much every part of the world except for the extreme deserts and polar regions. There are over 1,400 species of bats but in UK we only have 18 species.

Bats range in all different sizes with the smallest in the world is the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat also known as the bumblebee bat as its only about an inch long, with a wingspan of around 6 inches and is actually one of the smallest mammals in the world.

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Then the largest bat is the flying foxes with a wingspan of up to 5ft 6in and length of around a foot and a half. The large flying fox bats forms colonies of up to 15,000 bats, while the little red flying fox bats forms colonies of up to 100,000 bats.

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However in the UK our biggest bat is the just over 2 foot in length with a wingspan of just over a foot, which is the greater mouse-eared bat which is found near the south coast.

The most common bat you will see in UK will be the Pipistrelle, it only weighs the same as a 20p pence but can eat 3,000 tiny insects in just one night. Common pipistrelle bats are what you are most likely to see in your back garden along with species such as soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, noctule and Daubenton’s bat.

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Bechstein’s bat is one of the rarest bats in UK, found in woodlands in parts of southern Wales and southern England. They have the longest ears of any European bat after the long-eared bat and are sadly listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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There are a few species around the world that come out during the day but here in the UK all bats are nocturnal, choosing to be active during the night and sleeping during the day.

Different bat species eat different things, from fruit, seeds, to meat as well pollen from flowers, but here in the UK all our species only eat insects such as moths, mosquitoes, midges, lacewings and other nocturnal insects.


Why Bats are Important

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A lot of people don’t realise just how important a role bats play in many habitats around the world. They are key to the existence of some tropical plants and fruit as they play a huge part of the pollination process. In fact without bats we would most likely have no more bananas, avocadoes or mangoes. There is over 300 species of fruit around the world that depends on bats for pollination, so not only would it affect the food supply but also the supply of some medicines as they use plants that rely on bats to survive.

Bats are also key in spreading seeds and one we are super grateful for is the help they give to spreading seed for cacao which is the main ingredient in chocolate!

The other things bats play an essential role in is pest control, like all British bats they help control insect levels by feeding on them during the night and as they eat large amounts of mosquitoes, they help control viruses spread by the insects, which provides a benefit to humans.


Bat Populations in Decline


Sadly over the years the bat population has been getting lower all over the world and its most likely down to people not understanding the importance of bats to why their numbers are in decline.

New buildings going up, excessive use of pesticides in farming, climate change, pollution, disease and humans hunting bats are just some of the reasons bat numbers are going down.

Unfortunately so many of the bat species are at threat of endangered which is why here in UK all bats are legally protected, as well as the places where bats roost or hibernate.


Expert Advice on Attracting Bats to Your Family Garden

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So with all this in mind we think if families could do a few simple things to attract more bats to their garden it would be an fantastic way to help the recovery of bat numbers around your home all year round.

With the help of Sean McMenemy a commercial conservationist and wildlife habitat expert, as well as director and founder of Ark Wildlife we have put together some helpful tips on what families need to do to attract bats to their garden.

The Benefits for Bats if We Encourage them to Visit our Family Garden

With decline of bats all over the world you might think but what difference can my family garden really make Sean explains “Bats are mammals like us and have a long association with humans, frequently living alongside us in our houses and outbuildings. In fact, without the ability to share our accommodation many species would become extinct! Like us, they only have one live baby a year (not even every year) and so every life is precious. The loss of any habitat can take many years or even decades to recover due to their slow breeding rate.”

Top Tips on What to Plant in Your Family Garden to Attract Bats

Increasing bats food supply is the perfect way to attract bats to your garden, being more tolerant of insects in your garden is a start but Sean also says “Bats are night flying insectivores and this means they eat a lot of moths. So the best way to attract bats to your garden is by inviting in moths with lots and lots of night scented flowers. Here’s my quick and easy planting ideas for evening and night scented flowers that look and smell great, and attract moths to encourage visiting bats: evening primrose, honeysuckle, tobacco plant, night phlox, star jasmine, sweet rocket, and night scented stock.”

What Other Features Could You Add to Your Family Garden to Attract Bats

Avoiding the use of pesticides in your garden is a no brainer to help bats, but other features that will also help Sean explains “Bats use echolocation, rather than sight to navigate, sending out high pitched sounds and listening to the returning echoes. Certain garden features such as walls, fences and hedges all create useful navigation routes for bats to use while hunting. Imagining navigating your own garden by echo location will help you work out the best areas to plant for bats. Maybe even dig an open pond which they can swoop down to drink. Bats use different roosts throughout the year and also have different sites to hibernate. Unlike birds which nest and move on, bats change locations across the year depending on weather and breeding. Siting a number of bat boxes in different locations therefore increases the chances of occupation. To hibernate bats seek out quiet crevices where they are safe from predators, which remain warm and dry through the winter months. In spring and summer male bats will seek a cooler box to sleep during the day, avoiding overheating or chilling. Females will then seek out a maternity roost, excluding all males, where the temperature will remain warm across the several weeks while she suckles her baby before it can fly.”

How do you Create Your own Bat Box

Another necessity for bats is shelter especially as most hibernate over the winter months, some bats from November threw to February. If you feel like you want to take on a DIY project and make your own bat box then Sean’s advice is “Bats are sensitive to smell and temperature, so only use thick untreated timber in construction. Overall, size is not as important as it being accessible and draft free! Use rough-sawn timber (not planed or smooth) as bats need a rough surface for their claws to grasp. The back plate should extend at least 10cm lower than the box itself, creating a ‘landing pad’ from which the bats can crawl up and into the box. Above the landing pad, leave a small gap in the base of the box, no more than 1cm between the back plate and box. Make sure all other joints are sealed to keep the interior of the box dark, dry, and draft free. A good idea is to extend the back plate top and bottom as this allows easy fixing on site. Now you should have what looks a little like a bird nest box, but with a narrow slit on the underside (rather than a hole in the front), with a rough surfaced, back plate plank of wood, extending above and below the ‘box’ nest chamber.”

But of course if you would much rather just buy a bat box, you can here with the only task then to put it up somewhere above and away from doors or windows, or anywhere that the bats might be disturbed by people or pets.

It’s Safe to Attract Bats to Garden

Many people are scared of bats, some due to the negative scary images that is depicted every year around Halloween time but really there is no need to worry. Sean clarifys “Bats are NOT rodents, and they are not related to rats or mice, therefore do not chew wood, wiring or any other material. They do however, fly around consuming huge numbers of night flying insects including biting gnats and mosquitos. Being a natural bug deterrent and harmless in the home, bats should be welcome in every garden and regarded as friends, and not in the least bit scary!”




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