Bats are beautiful and beneficial

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Bats get a bad rap but they bring surprising benefits. Inviting them into your yard is actually a smart idea and easier than you think.

Drop the myths

Unfounded fears about these flying mammals prevent you from reaping the many benefits of having bat neighbors in your yard. Here are a few facts about bats to address the common myths.

   •     Rabies is not common. Fewer than a dozen cases of rabies acquired from a bat bite has occurred in the last 50 years in the US. Only 3 species out of over 1300, found only in Central and South America, are known to feed on blood. (These three species of bats don’t really suck blood, either. They lick it up.) 

   •     Bats aren’t blind. They see like every other mammal and have amazing echolocation skills to boot. 

   •      Flying agility is a hallmark of bats. They are not nesting in or coming close to your hair. Yes, bats may seem to swoop down towards you, but they aren’t getting nearly as close as you think. After all, bats are after insects not your head.                                                                                                  

Gain the Benefits

Bats are as essential to the nature life cycle as birds and bees. Installing a bat house will attract these helpful flying mammals (bats aren’t rodents) to your yard. Here are a few reasons to invite bats into your landscape.

    •     Natural pest control: You may have heard that one bat can eat over 1000 mosquitos in a night. Some bat species can consume more than 1000 in an hour. Bats also eat moths, beetles, wasps and garden creepy crawlies. Having bats around means needing fewer sprays of bug-repelling pesticides or other chemicals on your garden and yourself.

   •     Bee and bird backup: Bats aren’t only about bugs. They also like nectar and will search the garden for it throughout the night. Pollen gets spread this way, just like it clings to tiny bee fur. The pollination of plants is important for a sustainable garden. Bats also chew up and excrete seeds, making their guano droppings a big part of reforestation in rainforest areas.

   •     Guano is great for the garden: “NPK,” or nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, is the key combination of elements found in plant fertilizer. Bats excrete guano, which contains a combination of NPK that makes perfect plant food. Look up how to collect and distribute this natural resource for your garden. (Tip: bat houses don’t encourage bats to find ways into your attic. But if you do end up with bats in your belfry, hire a professional remover to clean up that guano.)

Build a bat house

Building a bat house is a fantastic project for a scout or beginner woodworker. The little brown bat, the most common bat in North America, is only about 2.5 to 4 inches long. They like tight spaces, so your bat house doesn’t have to be big to be useful.

Inexpensive, untreated plywood is the construction material of choice. Simple and more complex designs are available for free online. You can also purchase a ready-to-install bat house online and in some stores. This is a way for kids or teens to do their part to help the environment.

For more information about bats and instructions on building and mounting bat houses, see these sites:

Bat Conservation International

National Wildlife Foundation