Hello from Jo at the Wild Bunch!
When we talk about garden wildlife we often think of birds, insects and amphibians, and rarely mention the only flying mammals which also visit our gardens. It’s a shame really as bats might not be cute or pretty, but are without a doubt, fascinating and beneficial animals which we should encourage into our gardens.
Bats are active at night meaning they often go unseen. Those found in Britain are all insect predators. Bat numbers have declined over the last 50 years so the steps gardeners can take to make their gardens more bat-friendly are important in helping their recovery. Bats are also recognised biodiversity indicators, so if you see bats foraging in your garden it means you are winning at wildlife friendly gardening and providing an insect rich environment.
There are 17 species of bats in Britain, 16 of which are found in Somerset. During the recent Frome Big Bat Count which took place on 12th May, 102 bats were counted, and 9 species identified, so there is definitely a wide variety of bats found in our town. The most common species that use gardens for feeding or daytime shelter are the common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, noctule and Daubenton’s bat. Other species can also be present.
Bats live a long life, with a lifespan of around 30 years, so if you see bats around your garden, it’s likely to be the same individuals for years to come. You can help these fascinating creatures by growing a variety of plants that attract insects. Ponds are great breeding habitats for many insects, such as mosquitoes and midges which bats love to eat. Compost heaps are also great insect habitats which mean a tasty meal for a bat.
Bats will generally find their own places to shelter but bat boxes can be placed on tree trunks or walls of buildings. Bat boxes can be purchased from garden centres or made from wood that has not been treated with preservatives. Unlike birds, bats seek warm sheltered places in summer. When placing bat boxes, choose locations with a sunny southerly or westerly aspect. Avoid placing boxes anywhere where people or pets could disturb the bats. If it’s safe, try retaining old trees with cavities in the trunk, loose bark or splits in the trunk or branches as they provide great roosting spots. Lastly, same as with hedgehogs, bats can be harmed by pesticides so do not use these.
To join the Wild Bunch, find out what you can do to support our wild neighbours, and more information including upcoming events visit the Wild Bunch page.
Or come along to the next Wild Bunch meeting taking place on location at Welshmill Pond on Thursday 15th June, from 1:30-2:30pm to try your hand a bit of pond dipping as part of Great Big Green Week.
📷 Image thanks to Somerset Bat Group website.