Bats get a lot of bad press; they don’t deserve much of this. While often portrayed as vampires, only three bat species drink blood, which usually comes from livestock or birds.
However, the good side of bats hardly goes recognized, as these are some of the best forms of pest control a gardener can have. Among the favorite insects to eat are plant-eating beetles, moths, hornworms, grasshoppers, and stinkbugs, which can significantly help a gardener with a pest problem.
Besides gardening duty, bats are a highly effective form of mosquito control, and a colony of bats can eat enough mosquitos to keep your garden almost mosquito-free. Foremost, insect-eating bats have huge appetites, like pregnant females, or those nursing mothers can eat close to their body weight in bugs every night.
Such is their impact that the Bat Conservation International (BCI) claims insect-eating bats might save American farmers over $20 billion per year from averting crop damage and lowering pesticide use.
In our guide, you can learn how do bat houses work and more about how to get bats in a bat house to help with bug problems.
By the end, you’ll know how to attract bats to bat house and use the droppings from your bat box as highly nutritious fertilizer.
How Long Does It Take To Attract Bats To A Bat House?
Allow time for bats to discover and inspect the house. If it’s still unoccupied after two years, you may have to alter it or move it to a new location. From studies made by the BCI, 90% of bat houses attract bats within two years, with the other 10% taking three to five.
Bats are the only Chiroptera mammals capable of sustained flight, and from this, you have two suborders according to distribution:
Megachiroptera (megabats) uses eyesight for navigation, while Microchiroptera (microbats) uses echolocation to find their prey. (Read Can Goats Eat Watermelon)
Most of North America’s 44 bat species are microbats giving birth in early summer and hibernating during the winter. They can often be found in mines, bridges, and buildings. The rest comprises fruit bats or megabats, who also serve ecological services such as spreading seeds and helping with pollination.
Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) are the most commonly seen and have a life cycle like other species hibernate in the winter.
A large maternity colony builds where females birth and nurse their pups. A social network is built, including direct family members such as daughter, mother, and grandmother. Along with this are also their bat friends. Toward the latter part of summer, the colony disperses only to return the following year to roost.
Brown bats have an average life of 6.5 years, but some reach close to 30.
Will Bat Houses Attract Bats?
If you think that attracting bats to your garden is dangerous because of rabies, some bats carry rabies, yet the numbers are tiny at around less than 1%. A bat’s concern would be to attract night-flying insects into range for part of their night’s consumption.
Here’s more of a breakdown of why you ought to encourage bats, or at least more bats, to your garden using a bat house.
Bats Offer Natural Pest Control
Just as birds, wasps, ladybugs, and other insectivores eat a lot of bugs during the day, so do bats at night. You can see bats swooping along water surfaces and around lights at night, looking for insects. (Read Can Cows Swim)
Microbats use echolocation to explore, communicate, and hunt in the dark, where their ultrasonic noises produce echoes to find prey and determine its location in the pitch-black night. As bats draw closer to their meal, they “chirp” faster. Besides this, bats can hear the flutter of wings and the movement of land-based insects.
The bat swoops to trap the bug with its tail or wing membranes; from here, it reaches down and takes the insect into its mouth.
Many bats eat 600 bugs per hour or 3,000-4,200 nightly, and an established colony of around 500 bats can consume around a million insects per night thanks to their huge appetites. For example, one little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) could eat 60 moths or 1,000 mosquito-sized flies per night.
Besides mosquitoes, beetles, flies, wasps, moths, and lacewings are also on the menu.
Bats Make Nutrient-Rich Fertilizer
Bat guano is a substantial source of nutrients for your garden. With an NPK ratio of 10-3-1, you can use bat guano to prepare beds and as fertilizer all season. It also improves soil structure and water retention in sandy or clay-rich soils.
Bat guano is rich in helpful microorganisms that help prevent nematodes and soil-borne diseases. When you encourage bats to nest near your garden, you could have a steady stream of bat guano as bats can poop up to 30 times each day.
To use, you can use 5 pounds of bat guano per 100 square feet of garden and spread directly onto the soil.
You can also make bat guano tea (liquid fertilizer or foliar spray) by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of bat poop to one gallon of water.
Remember that working with bat guano can cause the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. Inhalation of this fungus causes histoplasmosis, so wear protective clothing.
Histoplasmosis causing fungi can be found in soil, human, dog, cat, birds, chickens, horses, and cattle excrement, so it isn’t just associated with bats.
How Do You Know If There Are Bats In Your Bat House?
How can I tell if my bat house has bats? Look for bat guano (bat droppings) underneath or near your bat house to see if it’s occupied. Another way is to shine a powerful flashlight up into the house.
Here you can find out how to attract bats to your yard.
Hang a Bat House
Installing a bat house near your garden will provide shelter from predators such as large birds like falcons, owls, and hawks. In addition, bats investigate a bat box as a new roosting opportunity as they carry out their feeding. Install a bat house in early spring to coincide with any habitat loss in attics, rafters, etc.
The bat house replicates a natural roosting location for bats, such as tight spaces under the bark of a dead tree trunk.
A dark exterior color and multiple chambers are required for the best bat houses. A single chamber bat house is fine, but male and female bats prefer multiple chambers.
- Unshaded southern exposure to at least 6 hours of daily sunlight.
- It should be 10-20 feet off the ground.
- A dark, non-light-polluted location at night.
- Preferably 330 yards from a water source.
- Predators make trees, poles, or similar construction unsuitable for bat boxes.
- A lack of obstructions such as tree branches allows bats to swoop into the house.
Roost temperature is an essential factor for a successful bat house, according to BCI (Bat Conservation International). The ideal temperature for mother bats is 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Location and color can determine this, so place your bat box where you can get at least six hours of sunlight and face south, east, or southeast. Also, paint the outside a dark color to absorb heat and blend into the natural environment.
Adding Water Source
Bats love to roost near fresh water, so look for ponds, rivers, creeks, and streams within 330 yards or a quarter-mile of your backyard.
If no natural source is close, you can create one. For example, ponds, water gardens, and bird baths commonly attract most bats to your backyard.
Plant Night-Blooming Plants
It’s good news that a bounty of insects will undoubtedly entice bats into your garden. Grow fragrant flowers, night bloomers, and moonlight-reflecting plants to attract night-flying and crawling insects.
Plant Tagetes patula, French Marigold, Buddleja davidii, Hyssopus officinalis, and Crabapple (Malus spp.).
Keep a Natural Garden
Keeping a yard and garden as natural as possible are important tasks and beneficial for the environment; they also require less maintenance and are often less expensive to create.
Organic fertilizers like compost and permaculture techniques like companion planting and beneficial insects are always recommended ways to attract bats in the summer months to eat insects.
Pesticide-sprayed insects can poison bats, so using natural pesticides and fertilizers instead of artificial pesticides and fertilizers puts your outdoor settings closer to nature’s inherent self-regulating properties.
Natural trees can provide life-saving advantages such as daytime concealment, apart from roosts.
If you want to attract bats, birds, butterflies, or other native species, include a variety of native plants in your garden. Because native plants are their principal food supply, this is especially crucial for bats that eat nectar or fruit. It can, however, encourage local insects to cluster, which is beneficial to insectivorous bats.
That may seem futile if your yard is already overrun with bugs, especially if that’s why you’re installing bat houses in the first place, but bats prefer ecosystems with a variety of food sources. You might also plant night-blooming flowers to attract nocturnal insects like moths, as bats feed after dark. (Read How To Stop Geese From Pooping In Yard)
Another essential feature of suitable bat habitat is native trees. Whether or whether you install a bat house, they can provide vital roosting and resting areas for bats in the summer. While some microbats hibernate in caverns, other bats hibernate in trees during the winter. The eastern red bat, for example, spends the winter in treetops, bark fissures, and even brush heaps in North America.
A natural setting for your bat houses will also help hunt your indigenous bats. Bats love dead tree roosting, so leave your dead trees standing if it isn’t a danger and is in a clear space.
Bat Garden Care
Bats have been observed drinking from swimming pools; however, this can be hazardous to their health.
High pool walls can prevent a bat from flying out and causing them to drown. Bats drink by skimming the surface for mid-flight gulps. Construct a ramp to provide bats with a safe way to get out of your pool onto the dry ground if you have a pool.
Bat House Maintenance
Your work will be almost over once you’ve attracted bats. The bats are likely to return each year, but if you’ve provided them with a bat house, some upkeep may be required after they go for the winter.
After bats and wasps have left, clean out wasp and mud dauber nests each winter.
Around three to five years, add new caulk, paint, or stain your bat roost to prevent leaks and drafts.
You should also check for signs of predators, decaying wood, or other monthly damage to your bat shelters. Finally, if your bat houses need repair, ensure you do when they are empty.
Attracting bats is excellent for bug killing but also can help increase numbers of bats that are declining because of white-nose syndrome.