Wildlife Guides

How To Attract Bats To Your Garden

How to Attract Bats to your Garden

Bats in Britain are sadly in decline, due to loss of habitat and food. But you can help by planting the right flowers in your garden to attract insects and moths and providing roosting. Simon King talks you through the best Bat Boxes to buy, and how and where to put them up.

The more we can do for bats in Britain, the more we can stem their current decline. According to the Bat Conservation Trust, our populations of bats in the UK have declined considerably over the last century. Their principal threat is loss of habitat. But also food, as Simon himself says, “Bats in the UK have really suffered enormously due to habitat loss both from the point of view of where they roost and also from the point of view of their food stuffs. They are all insectivorous species – they eat bugs – and therefore if bugs are on a low ebb, bats are suffering too.”

In the UK, you are most likely to spot a common pipistrelle bat, although we do actually have 18 species of bat in total living here. The pipistrelle weighs just five grams and can eat thousands of insects in just one night. For this reason, bats are known as biodiversity indicators. That means if we have a good population of bats then this indicates we have a rich healthy insect-filled environment around us. Which is what we need!

What do bats eat?

Bats are nocturnal and love to eat bugs! So their staple diet is made up of insects which we find flying around at night time.

  • They eat moths
  • midges
  • flies
  • mayflies
  • lacewings
  • spiders
  • and some beetles.

And in fact play a crucial role in pollination. They offer great pest control in your garden and for farmers, as they spend the evening hoovering up insects and in the same moment spreading seeds.

That’s why it’s great to choose flowering plants for your garden which are night-scented, meaning they give off an attractive smell after dark. Thereby encouraging insects and, in turn, bats. Flowers including jasmine, honeysuckle, evening primrose and sweet rocket are great for this. They all encourage moths which are such an important food source for bats. You can also plant our wildflower seeds to encourage bats into your garden. Compost heaps and ponds are also great at attracting the type of insects which bats love to eat. And are, of course, excellent water and habitat sources for loads of other types of wildlife in your garden. See our Native Wildflower Seeds for bats.

But aren’t bats blind?

All of our bats in the UK are insectivorous and so their success is tied to the availability of bugs. They catch insects using something called echolocation – which, in effect, is them making a noise, waiting for the sound wave to bounce back off an object, and using the speed at which it returns to know what’s in front of them and how big it is. Giving them information like whether it’s safe to keep flying or whether there’s food right in front of them. But contrary to popular thought, they don’t use echolocation because they are blind. Bats in fact can see extremely well.

Do bats hibernate?

Bats in the UK do hibernate. Hibernation is a state of torpor, or an extended period of deep sleep where a bat’s body temperature lowers and its metabolic rate slows. In preparation, they will spend the autumn building up fat stores and then seek out a cool but relatively humid sheltered spot in which to spend the winter. Caves are obviously the most stereotypical location. But a hollow in an old tree is also an excellent place, or in our loft space and between the tiles of a roof. They will emerge from hibernation in March and April, depending on the weather.

Where do bats live? 

Roosting is what bats do during the day. They look for somewhere dark and preferably warm to hang! Bats will change their roosting site through the year and they don’t ‘build’ a roost, like a bird will build a nest, but instead use an already available structure, either in a tree, a building or underground. In fact many will roost in a bat box, and you can help by providing one in your garden. A Bat Hanging Rack also offers a comfortable hanging space for bats during the day.


Why do bats hang upside down?

Have you ever thought about the fact that bats like to hang upside down. It sounds like a very uncomfortable lifestyle choice, but in fact bats need to be able to hang upside down. That’s because it helps their hearts to circulate blood, their claws don’t exert any energy to grip onto a wall or tree, and it means they are in prime position to quickly take off in flight. In fact most bats cannot take off from the ground. They need to be able to fall a couple of feet to start flying.

How to put up a bat box? 

So let’s talk about how to choose the right bat box, where to put it and how to look after bats to encourage more of our furry friends into your garden to roost and nest.

Bat boxes are available in many forms. There are single chamber bat boxes such as our Chavenage Bat Box (as featured in the video) and the Original Bat Box. These can provide roosting for Pipistrelle, Serotine, Noctule and Leisler’s bats. It is best to position these:

  • On a wall or a tree
  • At least 2 metres above the ground
  • South facing or somewhere relatively warm

Our Original Bat Box is double chambered offering a higher capacity for bats. Again it’s best to fit this on a garden or woodland tree or fence or onto your house wall, nice and high – up to around 5 metres. You could spend a few evenings beforehand in your garden noting whether you can see an existing feeding or flight route as you will be more likely to get occupation if you can see a lot of bats around already.

Once your bat box is up, it’s illegal to inspect it or disturb the bats without a licence. So how do you know if you’ve got bats in your bat box? Well, you can look underneath or on the slats for evidence of bat droppings, they’re about the size of mice droppings. Or, keep an eye out at dusk to see if they’re flying out. You could even invest in a bat detector to listen out for the ultrasonic sounds of a bat call which we can’t normally hear with the human ear.

For more information on looking after bats head over to the Bat Conservation Trust.

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