Confession time. I’m a bit batty. Take that as you will but I’m talking a deep admiration for small furry flying mammals, the mere thought of which makes some people want to scream.
Our native bats are a cute bunch, 18 species of what are called ‘microbats’ (as opposed to the largely tropical, technical-sounding ‘megabats’ – I kid you not). Microbats are smaller, and eat only insects, whereas some megabats also eat fruit, nectar and even fish.
When you look closely at our garden bats, a single pipistrelle (our smallest native bat, weighing about as much as a £1 coin) can munch through 3,000 mozzies and midgies in a single night – what’s not to like?
In common with much of our wildlife, bats are under threat from habitat loss. With Hallowe’en just round the corner, it’s a great time to be thinking about ways of helping out our flighty, furry and not-at-all-scary garden friends.
What can gardeners do to encourage bats?
- Build a pond – making a pond is the single most effective way to encourage wildlife into your garden. Bats will love to swoop down low over the water on summer evenings – it’s lovely to watch them at work.
- Add linear features like hedges – bats like to hunt along hedgelines, and now’s a great time to plant hedging.
- Don’t use insecticides in the garden – seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people squirt chemicals about then wonder where all the wildlife has gone!
- Put up a bat box
Plant pollinator-friendly flowers, which will encourage moths into the garden – the flowers will be a pleasure for us, and a snack bar for bats. Pale flowers are more visible to moths, and make sure they’re single-flowered, as double flowers often have less nectar and are nowhere near as insect-friendly. Good ones to try include verbena and Echinacea
- Bat Conservation Trust http://www.bats.org.uk/index.php
- Why bats matter http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/why_bats_matter.html
- Plant some bat-friendly plants http://www.spaldingbulb.co.uk/plants/