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For many people, visions of bats may conjure up creepy ideas of bloodsucking rodents (they aren’t rodents). We live in an area with a lot of natural caves. This gives us many opportunities to learn about bats and how they influence our environment. If you’ve never thought about trying to attract bats to your backyard or considered building a bat house, there are many reasons you may want to!
When I think of little furry creatures flying around in my backyard, I typically think of honey bees. But did you know bees aren’t the only pollinators around? Not only do bats help with pollination, but they provide plenty of other benefits for your backyard.
3 Reasons You Want Bats in Your Yard
Here are three big reasons we need to stop thinking of bats as creepy and start inviting them into our yards:
1. Bats Pollinate Plants
Like bees, bats are attracted to the nectar in plants. You can think of bats as the “night shift” pollinators.
These nocturnal creatures become active when the sun goes down, and work magic in your garden while you snooze. They go after the nectar and bugs, spreading pollen as they swoop and dive.
Lots of plants are dependent on bats for pollination. This includes tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes, and guavas. Bats are also the only pollinators of the agave plant, which is where we get tequila from. So, if you’re into tropical fruit or tequila (no judgment here either way), bats have an important job.
Whether you want some help in your veggie garden or with your prized azaleas, you should put your own bat house in your backyard.
Bats are most commonly found pollinating plants in tropical and desert climates. In the springtime, they’re most often seen in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
2. Bat Poop is the Bees’ Knees
Flying rodent poop. I know: ew. But bat poop, called guano, is actually an important factor in the global ecosystem, and, in turn, the global economy.
Guano is a rich fertilizer and is superior to other natural and organic fertilizers. Bat guano:
- has an ideal ratio of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the elements required for plant growth)
- has a high percentage of living organisms, including beneficial bacteria and fungi
- is fungicidal
- destroys nematode worms
- is positively charged, which is beneficial to the plant’s nutritional status
Not only does guano act as an amazing fertilizer, but it also helps to distribute seeds. This is especially helpful in places where natural vegetation has suffered due to man’s interventions. When the bats eat fruit, the seeds are then spread later in the guano. All of this strengthens our natural, global ecosystem.
According to Bat Conservation International:
Vast expanses of the world’s rainforest are cleared every year for logging, agriculture, ranching and other uses. And fruit-eating bats are key players in restoring those vital forests. Bats are so effective at dispersing seeds into ravaged forestlands that they’ve been called the ‘farmers of the tropics.
It’s estimated that up to 95 percent of new growth in these areas can be attributed to the seeds dropped by bats. Suffice it to say, you want bats pooping in your garden!
3. Bats Cut Down on Mosquitoes and Other Bugs
No matter the season (but especially in spring and summer), there always seem to be pesky bugs around. Especially if you live in warmer climates. Insects can be both bothersome and harmful, but thankfully bats are nature’s pest control.
If you’ve ever grown your own garden, you know how difficult it can be to combat bugs. It’s even harder if you’re committed to avoiding harmful pesticides. Bats eat the bugs responsible for wreaking havoc on your garden.
Many bat species eat vast amounts of night-flying insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests. In the U.S., bats help to significantly cut down on the population of an insect called the “corn earworm moth. ” These moths are known for damaging a number of commercial crops. It’s estimated that in the United States alone, bats save farmers more than $3.7 billion a year thanks to a reduction in crop damage and pesticide use.
And if you find yourself wondering why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, you’ll be glad to know bats can help with that too. Mosquitoes are a particular favorite among bats. Little brown bats and other species of bats are said to eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in one hour! That alone should be reason enough to put a bat house in your backyard.
To cut down on annoying pests, you can put a bat box in your backyard.
How to Attract Bats to Your Backyard
There are a few things you can do to encourage bats to loiter near your home. The idea is to recreate their natural habitat so they can safely camp out in your yard.
They like areas with a water source, but it’s not quite as simple as getting a bird bath. Since bats swoop during flight for their water, they need a pool of water that’s several feet long.
Build Your Own Bat House
The National Wildlife Federation says “Your goal is to make a bat house that mimics the space between bark and a tree trunk.”
It’s actually pretty simple to build a new bat house, even with minimal carpentry skills. For detailed instructions, download this guide from Bat Conservation International.
The basic gist is that you’re building a tall, thin, box made from plywood, with a roof and an opening at the bottom. A bat house should be divided inside by a piece or two of plywood to create long, thin spaces for the bats to burrow in.
Bats prefer tight spaces but the exact number of bats that will fit in the roost sites depends on how many chambers it has. A single-chamber bat house will naturally have less occupancy. Some wildlife experts recommend the larger boxes for a bigger impact and because they’re more thermally stable.
Bats like their home to be warm, but if it’s too warm it can harm or kill them. They like a few hours of daily sun exposure on the exterior of their bat roosts. However, they need room to move around if the sun gets too hot. In colder climates, you can use a dark color of exterior grade, water-based paint on the outside of the bat house. If you live in really hot zones, then it’s best to opt for lighter colors.
Bat House Kits and Premade Options
If you’re not into DIY, you can purchase a bat house inexpensively. Here are a few good options:
- The BatBNB offers some great options for bat houses that are designed with the bat’s needs in mind. At the same time, they look great on the side of a house or garage!
- This triple-chambered bat house can fit up to 75 bats. It’s unpainted so you can opt for a dark or light color depending on your climate
- If you’re an overachiever, this large bat house is also approved by the Organization for Bat Conservation and can hold up to 300 bats!
Where to Put a Bat House
While a tree is a convenient bat box option for homeowners, bats may not like it. This can put them in close proximity to predators when exiting their home. A successful bat house is mounted 12-20 feet off of the ground on a secure pole or building.
Also, be sure to check the bat house periodically for wasp nests. Mud daubers and certain wasp species can build nests that take up indoor space and push bats out. You can check the inside of the bat box with a flashlight at dusk once the bats are gone. When the nest is empty, remove the wasps with a long stick.
Don’t spray pesticides as they’ll permeate the wood and could harm the bats. Here are more detailed instructions on what to do if your bat house has wasps.
Leave Dead Trees
While we may worry about dead trees being unsightly, if they aren’t a safety concern, they’re a perfect spot for bats to burrow.
Bats hide behind loose bark and in cracks on dead trees, where they can roost together and form colonies. These colonies can range in size from just a few bats to hundreds, depending on the amount of space the tree provides.
Trees make a perfectly protected refuge for bats and also attract insects that the bats can eat.
Plant Bat-inviting Vegetation
Bats are attracted to light-colored, fragrant plants that bloom at night. You can also plant flowers that attract the bugs bats like to eat. Some plants that attract bats include:
- Evening primrose
- Night-blooming water lily
- Night-blooming jessamine
Scented herbs like chives, lemon balm, and marjoram are also good for attracting bats. Cinnamon, eucalyptus, and peppermint are said to repel bats, so avoid using those in your garden.
Ready to Get a Bat House in Your Yard?
Are you convinced to invite bats to take up residence in your backyard? Hopefully, you’re seeing these fascinating creatures in a whole new light.
Putting up a bat house is as simple as a quick construction project or an inexpensive purchase. Add a few thoughtful plants, and you’ll have the winged weasels pollinating, fertilizing, and cutting down on insects in no time.
Do you have bats in your backyard? Share this post with a friend who could use some bats flying around their home!