What frightens you? Snakes? Heights? Spiders? For me, it's bats. Just the thought of one of those winged critters swooping near me at dusk or surprising me while cleaning out my attic sends shivers down my spine. But, as a gardener, I've begun to think much differently about them. Yes, they may be frightening, but there are amazing benefits of bats for your garden.
5 Bat Facts
Let me drop some bat knowledge on you and, like me, you'll come to appreciate these creatures.
1. Bats make up almost a quarter of the entire mammal population, and they're the only mammals that fly.
2. Seventy percent of the more than 1,000 bat species feed exclusively on insects, and some bats catch upwards of 600 mosquitoes per hour.
3. Only three species of bats spread rabies (and they live in Central and South America).
4. If you place a bat house in your yard, it will be occupied within an hour.
5. A bat can consume one quarter to one half of its body weight in insects each night. A nursing mama bat can eat more than her body weight in insects nightly.
4 Benefits of Bats for Your Garden
As a gardener who is trying to avoid toxic chemicals and insecticides in your garden, bats are a powerful helper. Here's why:
1. Bats eat mosquitoes, but they also devour midges, caterpillars, moths, gnats, and large flying beetles. Some birds will also eat these insects, but they are only active during the days whereas bats work the night shift.
According to Finegardening.com, In Kansas and Canada, bat populations have effectively eradicated corn rootworm moths, which has dramatically reduced the need for insecticides.
2. What goes in must come out. After eating all of those insects, bats digest and excrete guano (bat poop) which is a valuable garden fertilizer that's rich in phosphorous and nitrogen.
3. Bats are pollinators. You know about the troubles affecting honeybee populations. So, as gardeners we need a diverse group of pollinators to help our gardens grow. That's where bats come in.
Do you enjoy tequila? According to The National Wildlife Foundation, tequila is made from the agave plant, which relies solely on bats to pollinate its flowers and reproduce.
4. According to the New York Botanical Garden, bats also distribute seeds:
"The bats ingest the fruits, digest the pulp surrounding the seeds, and then defecate the seeds. Seed retention time within bats is often less than 20 minutes and the bats often defecate the seeds while in flight. The seeds of such plants as Cecropia, Solanum, and Vismia are adapted for dispersal by bats and are often the first plants to colonize large open areas."
3 Ways to Attract Them
Have I convinced you that bats are handy garden helpers? Good! Now, you can make your garden an attractive habitat for them to encourage them to hang around.
1. Give them a water source. Don't worry if you don't have a pond on your property or don't live near a stream, a bird bath is enough to satisfy bats.
2. Plant night blooming flowers such as datura, moonflower, or yucca.
3. Offer them shelter. Buy a bat house online or from your local garden center. If you're handy you can build your own. However, if you have an old decaying tree on your property they'll be perfectly happy to live there.
Related on Organic Authority
Protecting Native Pollinators: Understanding Their Important Roles in Your Garden
The Pollinators: 7 Important Insects and Animals for our Food Supply
Which Types of Bats are True Superheroes? Pretty Much All of Them, and Here's Why
image of bat via Shutterstock