Poor old bats. No, I’m not talking about little old ladies who insist on going out shopping at lunchtime when you’re in a rush and paying for everything in the smallest change possible. They, quite frankly, can get lost. I’m talking pipistrelles, horseshoes, natterer’s and the other 14 different species of bat that we share our island with.
They (the furry sort) get a bad press. Being creatures of the night, we’re somehow naturally suspicious of them – plus they have relatives in the tropics that are actual vampires. But take another look at our bats, peel back the veil of prejudice, and there’s a lot to like.
Bats are surprisingly cute up close; like furry little mice with wings. But to equate them merely with cuteness does them a grave disservice. The only mammals to have mastered powered flight, and able ‘see’ in the dark using sonar, these mosquito-munching machines deserve a lot more respect.
Mosquito munching machines. There’s a phrase. In parts of Italy where mosquitos are a problem, bat houses are sold at DIY stores as an alternative to expensive and harmful chemicals – how wonderful is that! If you’ve ever suffered insect bites at a barbecue, you’ll be glad to know that even our smallest and most common bat, the pipistrelle, can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night!
How to help bats in your garden
- Grow some bat-friendly flowers – basically anything that is good for insects will be good for bats. Open, daisy type flowers like asters (see photo), and night-blooming flowers like tobacco plants which attract moths are particular favourites. Read more
- Give them a home – put up a bat box – you can find guidelines here
- Install a pond or water feature – the more natural-looking the better (open water is better than a pebble fountain)
- Don’t use insecticides in your garden. A few nibbles on your roses are well worth it to know you’ve not poisoned some wonderful, fascinating wild creatures.
- Reduce light pollution – fit hoods to security lights and use low voltage, low intensity garden lighting.