Last week was Wild About Gardens Week, jointly organised by the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society. It was focused on bats, and, as Halloween came straight after, it seems appropriate to look at these mysterious and ‘spooky’ creatures now.
Seventeen species of bats breed in this country, the most common being tiny pipistrelles, weighing only the same as a 2p coin. All are nocturnal insect hunters, and they eat a lot of those: one pipistrelle will get through hundreds of midges and mosquitoes a night. Because they rely on insects for food all our bats hibernate from about now through to April. They do this in our roof spaces (where they do no damage and create no smells), hollow trees, caves, mines and tunnels.
Like a lot of wildlife bats need our help. They are all legally protected so it is an offence, without a licence, to disturb their hibernation, roosting and maternity roosts. There is though much you can do in your garden to help them.
Planting insect-attracting flowers and shrubs, such as honesty, primroses and honeysuckle is a good start. The insects they attract will be food for hungry bats. And now is the time of the year to put up bat boxes, not for the bats to hibernate in, but to provide roosting places next year.
Think too about the number and types of lights around your house. They have an impact on both insects and bats. Although bats can dine out easily when lights attract a crowd of insects, there can be negative impacts as well. Too much light can affect bats’ daily rhythms by changing general light levels – they can be confused about whether it is night or day. It is better to turn lights down or off, and not to use modern LED lights. These are very bright and do not attract insects at all. (As a bonus you will be able to enjoy the night sky better without lights.)
There is much more in an excellent free booklet produced by the Wildlife Trusts and available on line from this link: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/bats .
If you want to know more, or do more, for the bats in your neighbourhood then contact Brumbats – the Birmingham and Black Country Bat Group. Find them at: https://brumbats.wordpress.com/ .