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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!
Discussion (21 Comments)
I’m a little skeptical on birdhouses, bat houses, and other such things now that I’ve heard someone remark that destroying a bird’s house is how you make a birdhouse. I mean, after all, the ‘houses’ we make them are made out of wood, and their natural home is in the trees. Thoughts…?
Oddly enough there is an advertisement for getting rid of bats on the page, 😛
While I do not disagree with most of the information in this post, as someone who has dealt with a recent bat infestation in my house I feel compelled to respond. Here are some things I have learned about bats that I never wanted to know: 1) Bats can cause tremendous damage to your home and property through their guano and also through clawing and, typically, this will not be covered by your insurance. 2) Bat guano when it accumulates and when moisture remains in it can harbor the dangerous histoplasmosis (look it up–it can decimate your health). 3) Bats often carry critters called bat bugs which are virtually identical in appearance to bed bugs. They can (and did, in our case, find their way into your home and once they enter if there aren’t any bats for them to feed on they will feed on humans (much like bed bugs). 4) Bats are much less attracted to homes in trees where they can easily be reached by predators (snakes, hawks, owls, etc.) than they are to your home. Bats can fit in cracks and crevices as small as 3/8″ and once they make a home in your home they will return year after year looking for new ways to enter. 5) Bats are federally protected and when you discover them living in your home between May and the end of August you are prohibited from “excluding” them from your home (think installing a one-way door to allow them to exit and not re-enter). In the meantime, they will continue to accumulate guano in your attic and that will likely not be covered through your insurance. 6) Even with many bats living on our property all summer we still had to spray for mosquitoes as my kids and I were being bitten many times every time we went outside.
On insect repellent, I make one from essential oils, there are several that work and I’ve found that not all work on all people so you’ll need to research and decide which works best for you. Nothing toxic about it.
Mix one drop of one or more EO’s in a 2oz bottle fillled with a carrier of witch hazel or an alcohol (vodka, I don’t drink it) but it works well in mixing the EO’s to spray AVOID eyes. I spray on my hand rub together lightly and then around hair line on grandchildren. Mist the top of the heads, caps etc helps as well.
Eucalyptus, melaleuca (tee tree), peppermint, lemongrass and grapefruit are some I use. The citronella works well but is strong.
I have experienced the same thing and I want nothing to do with anything that will encourage bats to be close to my property and home for these exact reasons. There is nothing more unsettling than waking up in the middle of the night with a bat circling over your head or having your child come screaming into your room because they experienced the same thing or hearing them scratch in the attic and in your walls, We had to spend thousands of dollars to put in one way doors at the end of their “season” ( which is totally ridiculous), seal ALL gaps in our home from foundation to roof, clean up the guano, etc…. and will have to spend hundreds more every year to have the house inspected and continue sealing the smallest of gaps because they keep trying to returning. It is a nightmare I would never wish on anyone. I don’t care how slight the risk is that they carry rabies, I don’t want them in my home with access to my children in the dark of night!!!
Wow, awful problems. I just bought a bat house! Wish I read this first! Good luck
I don’t really like the idea of painted or stained houses for bats and birds. Those houses will be constantly in the sun and therefore off-gassing the paints and stains. Could be deadly to tiny birds. The Audibon Society sells ones that are only natural wood like cedar. They aren’t stained. I also like only ceramic ones for other birds. When I see all the cheap painted ones at Walmart, made in China….I know they are deadly to birds.
Good to know, thank you!
Bats can carry rabies. Before attracting bats to your yard, contact your local animal control department to make sure your neighborhood bats are not infected with rabies. Stay away from bats displaying odd behavior, such as being on the ground or out during the day.
Yes, any animal displaying odd/out of place behavior should be avoided and possibly reported to animal control. However, please be aware that only 0.5% of bats will ever contract rabies. This is LESS than any other mammal on earth! (Source: http://www.floridabats.org)
Certainly, one should stay away from any animal that is displaying odd/uncharacteristic behavior. However, please be aware that fewer than 0.5% of bats will ever contract rabies. This is the lowest percentage of any other mammal!
What a great post. They are sweet little creatures. Knowledge and understanding is power. Hope this reaches out and changes peoples minds about bats. Thank you for posting!
What about the disease they can carry and transmit?
We have bats living in our attic. I wonder if making a bat house available will coax them into a new home.
Good reminder! I have a bat box sitting in the corner of the living room, waiting to put up whenever I drag out a ladder. I’ll do that this weekend! One tip I read was to spray some bat attractant (I bought it on Amazon) to initially help them find your box.
Well now this is news for me. I have always thought that bats would carry and spread diseases, much likely to rats and other rodents. Although I was aware of their mosquito-eating predilection, I had no idea of the guano benefits.
Still thinking about the diseases though… your text doesn’t mention anything about… do you have any informations about it?
Bats are not rodents, contrary to what many people believe. From what I’ve found, the risks are minimal with bats in the yard and are mostly a concern in caves and areas with high bat population. “While there have been instances of humans exposed to rabid bats , most bats in a natural setting are not rabid and, in many outdoor situations, the presence or sighting of bats is common and normal.” (source: CDC article here: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/bats.html
I’ve also been doing some “bat research” lately for my job, and while bats can contract illnesses such as rabies, very few actually do (like 1% from what I’ve been reading). A great resource for all kinds of bat information is the Bat Conservation International website! It’s very informative.
I also wanted to comment that I LOVE the fact that you wrote this blog post! This past year I’ve really been getting into natural wellness and healing and have come across your posts several times regarding different things I’ve searched. As a huge animal lover (borderline obsessive! haha) I was so happy to see a positive (and very intelligent with researched info. and sources) post for bats on a “wellness” blog. I love it!