Picture this: you have just finished building your ideal outdoor living space complete with new patio, beautiful patio furniture, fancy BBQ grill, maybe even a hot tub, fire place/pit and gazebo. So you invite some friends and family over to eat, drink and, let’s face it, show off your beautiful new patio.
Everything is going perfectly…until dusk settles in and the mosquitoes come out. Suddenly you and your guests become fine dining entrees for those pesky bugs. How annoying! I don’t know about you, but I have tried everything to ward off the hungry pests and nothing seemed to work. Until I discovered the answer: BATS!
Now, before you say, “No freaking way!” just hear me out. Thanks to various horror movies/shows/stories, bats have really gotten a bad rap. There are over 1,000 different species of bats and only 3 drink blood: the common vampire bat, the white-winged vampire bat and the hairy-legged vampire bat.
Besides, unless you live in South and Central America and Mexico and are a cow or horse (vampire bats’ favorite food source), you don’t have to be concerned about any vampire bats making their home with you. In fact, bats stay away from human contact (including hair) as much as possible. They also have a much lower incidence of rabies infection than raccoons, skunks, and other wild animals.
There are several benefits to making your yard an inviting place for bats to live:
Bats pollinate plants.
In fact, bats are the sole pollinators of the agave plant (the plant tequila is made of). They also pollinate fruit trees and, as they swoop and dive after bugs, spread the pollen of other plants around.
Bat poop (guano) is an excellent fertilizer.
In fact, bat guano is one of the best natural fertilizers in the world due to the perfect ratio of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth). It also contains beneficial bacteria and fungi, is positively charged (which helps plants absorb nutrients), is a natural fungicide, and destroys nematodes (parasitic worms that can be harmful to crops and humans).
They’re fun to watch.
When I lived in Northern Arizona, I used to love to sit on my deck and watch the bats swoop around the street lights, catching their evening meals. Maybe my idea of fun is different from yours, but I really miss watching their graceful diving and swooping.
I know I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth mentioning again. Bats are better at controlling mosquito populations than bug zappers and birds combined. Bats are able to consume one quarter to one half their body’s weight in bugs per night! Bats also eat bugs that can wreak havoc on your garden. In fact, in the United States alone, bats save farmers over $3.7 billion per year due to reducing crop-damaging pest populations which, in turn, saves on pesticide costs.
So, just how do you go about attracting bats to your yard?
Build a bat house.
Bat houses work just like bird houses. They give bats a dark, protective place to roost during the day. You can buy a bat house from many garden centers or online, but they’re really easy to make and would be a fun family project. This guide from The National Wildlife Federation is a good start.
Plant bat-loving vegetation.
Light colored, fragrant plants and flowers that bloom at night will attract bats to your home. Herbs like lemon balm, marjoram and chives attract, but cinnamon, eucalyptus and mint repel them, so don’t plant these in your garden. Night-blooming flowers like moon flower, jessamine, datura, yucca, evening primrose, and night-blooming water lily are good choices.
Leave dead trees.
I know. Dead trees are an eyesore. But, so long as they don’t pose a safety concern, they are the perfect thing to attract bats to your yard. Bats like to roost behind loose bark and inside cracks in trees. Dead trees can attract a colony of bats, from just a few to hundreds, depending on how many dead trees are around. So, especially if you live in a rural area, you may want to keep a dead tree or two around if you want to attract bats.
Even if all of this doesn’t convince you to attract bats to your home, I hope I’ve at least helped dispel the bad reputation bats have. They truly are beneficial animals to have around!