Got bats in your belfry? Lucky you. The much-maligned bat is critical to the health of the environment and our gardens. The Canadian Wildlife Federation says:
Bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects such as moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. A single bat can catch hundreds of insects in just one hour, consuming from 30 to 50 percent of its body weight in insects each night.
A healthy colony of bats can protect gardens and crops from major damage by pest species such as cucumber beetles, moths, cutworm, corn earworm, leafhoppers, and June beetles. As each female moth can lay thousands of eggs, the control of even a few adults has an exponential effect.
Okay, I’m sold. So, what can we do to encourage bats to take up residence in our gardens? Provide them with one (a residence, that is).
Greet Feet sells a bat-chelor pad (love that name!) that holds up to 30 bats and is specifically designed for cooler locations.
Planet Natural has a simple cedar bat house that holds up to 40 bats (pick up a mason bee house while you’re there).
Or, if you’re “handy,” as my mom says, build your own.
Where to locate your bat house
- Temperature is a critical factor in roost selection. In Canada, bat houses should receive at least ten hours of direct sun each day, and more is better.
- Mount bat houses on poles or on the side of a building at least 12 feet (4 metres) above the ground (the higher the better). Houses mounted on trees are more difficult for bats to find and more vulnerable to predators.
- Bats need to drink water every night, so houses located less than a quarter mile (400 metres) from a water source, such as a stream, river, or lake, have the greatest success in attracting bats.
- Bats like a clear swoop zone to get in and out of their roosts, so avoid placing the house in an area where there are a lot of obstacles, such as tree branches.
- Placing two or more houses in one location allows bats to better respond to changes in temperature by allowing them to move between the houses as needed.
- Do not mount houses close to bright lights.
- If after two years your bat house has failed to attract occupants, try moving it to a new location.
Don’t have the space for a bat house? Adopt a bat, and receive “an endearing letter from your bat.” Okaaaaay.