When you say the word "bat," most people get this skin-crawling sensation. In fact, people aren’t very fond of these flying nocturnal animals at all. Many worry about them getting caught in their hair or fear the possibility of contracting rabies. Some people immediately think of vampire bats that suck blood out of animals. The thing is that bats don’t really deserve such a bad reputation. They do wonderful things for the ecosystem, and as such, they should be welcome in gardens everywhere.
Why You Should Welcome Bats
The first reason you should be more welcoming to bats can be summed up in one word: bugs. Many species of bats are voracious eaters of flying insects, many of which are the same ones that typically bug us. One species of bat can eat as many as a thousand mosquitoes in an hour. Imagine how nice it would be not to have to deal with so many flying insects in your yard. In addition to eating mosquitoes, bats also eat many crop-damaging insects, such as stink bugs, corn worm moths, and cucumber beetles. If you live in an area with centipedes and scorpions, you should doubly love these creatures, as the pallid bat is immune to their stings and fully capable of feasting on them.
While many species of bats love a good bug buffet, there are plenty of species that prefer a nice vegetarian spread. These bats are pollinators (a gardener’s best friends). In fact, did you know that without bats, tequila wouldn’t be possible? Agave plants are the natural source of tequila and agave nectar. These plants rely solely upon bats for their pollination. It would indeed be a shame if bats became extinct.
Many think that bats are dirty, but they’re actually rather fastidious little creatures. Think of them more like flying cats than rodents, as they are regularly grooming themselves when they aren’t sleeping or eating.
Even vampire bats offer a benefit in the form of their saliva. Researchers have found an anticoagulant in their saliva that can be used to treat stroke and heart disease patients. Plus, they take in orphans and are willing to share food with the other members of their roost.
How You Can Help Bats
One of the things you can do to support the bats in your area is to help give them an environment that meets their needs. For instance, bats need shelter. Trees, hedges, and shrubs can make great places for bats to hide out in during the day. Not every yard has the right environment for bats, but bat houses can still be installed anywhere. Also, if you have bats in your area, it’s a good idea to avoid using pesticides. The bats will help clean up your insect population for you, and you won’t be putting chemicals around you and your family.
One of the best ways to support these creatures is to set up some bat houses. First, you’ll need to find the perfect area for them. You’ll want to look for a spot that gets plenty of sun during the day so that the houses heat up. Bats enjoy temperatures between 85 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also paint the houses a darker color in case your location only sees a few hours of sunlight. If your houses get plenty of sunshine, you may want to go with a lighter shade to keep them from getting too hot. You’ll also want to find a spot that has a relatively close freshwater source. This could be an artificial source, but it needs to produce fresh water.
There are many plans available online to help you build your own bat houses. Follow the one that works best for you. Just keep in mind that bigger is often better when it comes to bat houses, especially when trying to entice bats into your yard. Early spring is a great time to put up your new bat houses, as this is often the time when bats form their colonies. No matter what plan you pick, remember that the houses need to be waterproof, so adding caulk to their seams is a good idea. Giving them roofs can also help keep the homes secure and make them last longer. When hanging a bat house, you'll want to make sure it’s secure enough to accommodate a few friendly bats.
Bats get a bad rep, but they are really beneficial critters that everyone should welcome in their yard. It can even be a lot of fun to turn learning about the bats native to your area into a family activity.