Bats in the Backyard


Welcome bats into your backyard. They eat insects by the thousands!

By FamilyTime

 

You may have heard of a neighbor who installed a bat house in the garden.

What?! Are the these people harboring a few bats in their cranial belfries? Who wants bats swooshing around?

Think again! These thoughtful folks are welcoming bats because of their amazing powers for good.

Bats are the primary predator of nighttime insects in the United States and unless you fancy swarms of mosquitoes buzzing around your head, thank a bat. A single brown bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour. In agricultural regions, they devour all manner of harmful beetles and other insects that attack crops.

Bats are great pollinators, as well. In the desert, nectar-feeding bats are the reason large cacti grow and the ecosystem thrives. In the tropics, they pollinate any number of fruits and without them, the world would be a far less tasty place.

Do you like bananas? Avocados? Figs? Mangoes? Let’s hear it for bats.

And yet the sad truth is that in America nearly 40 percent of our bat species is threatened or endangered, greatly due to loss of habitat and the use of pesticides.

Myths and More Myths

But bats swoop into bedrooms and get tangled in our hair. While we sleep! They bite innocent babies and suck their sweet blood — and they spread rabies!

Not so!

Bats do not get tangled in anyone’s hair (their amazing sonar prevents any such thing). Bats do not suck blood from anyone (in some Latin American countries, a few species bite small animals and lick the blood). Bats rarely spread rabies (very few bats are ever infected with rabies — fewer than one half of one percent, if at all).

This is not to say no one gets bitten. A few people do get bat bites every year, but far fewer than imagined. Nor is this to say bats never show up inside our houses. They do, but the instances are quite rare.

A House for a Bat

Because bats are so useful, so necessary, you might want to install a bat house on your property. It’s really very easy.

You can buy a bat house from any number of garden shops, hardware stores and online merchants. Or, you can build your own. When you search for plans on the Internet, look for up-to-date instructions. The Organization for Bat Conservation (batconservation.org) and the Bat Conservancy (batconservancy.org) are good places to start.

The bat house should be mounted at least 15 feet off the ground — and higher if possible. It should face south or southeast so that it gets seven to eight hours of morning-into-afternoon sun. Bats like to be warm when they sleep. The side of a garage or barn is a good spot, if it’s sunny. Don't mount the bat house too close to your own house. Too much activity for the bats, and if there 's a chance a bat could get inside, this is one way to encourage it.

The bat house should be at least 20 feet from trees and within a quarter of a mile of a natural source of water. Don’t hang it near an air conditioning unit, the street, or an area that is lit overnight. Bats prefer quiet and darkness. Consider a lone tree, a phone pole, an outbuilding, or a post installed for the purpose.

There is no guarantee that your bat house will attract bats, but if it’s well situated, your chances increase And when the bats decide to take up residence, your insect population will quickly achieve a healthy balance.