The Bat-Friendly Home & Garden
A quick google search for trying to support bats and you will find all kinds of articles on bat REMOVAL services and almost no articles about how to assist our night-flying friends. We know, however, that if you are reading this, you’re, most likely, a lover of the wild things of our region and want to ENCOURAGE and SUPPORT the existence of bats. But in case we’re wrong, and you aren’t aware of how amazing and important bats are, consider the following.
Bats eat a LOT of insects.
They especially relish the sort of insects that tend to be pests, like mosquitoes! Studies show that bats eat about 70% of their weight in insects each night and some pregnant females at 100% of their body weight (that’s a lot of insects!). To put that into perspective, a single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour. Mexican free-tailed bats eat a lot of corn ear worm and cotton bollworm moths, which are agricultural pest species that cause millions of dollars in damage to crops each year. In some areas this is actually their primary food.
They pollinate many of our most iconic plants in the southwest.
Particularly they are important pollinators for saguaro, several species of agave, and organ pipe cactus. Agaves used to make mescal and tequila are very reliant on bat pollination—seed production drops to 1/3000th of normal without bats. No bats, no margaritas!
Bat poop is one of the best organic fertilizers.
Bat guano is collected from caves or areas where they roost in large numbers. Bat droppings in caves support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents , and producing gasohol (a mixture of gasoline and ethyl alcohol used as fuel in internal combustion engines) and antibiotics.
Bat are keystone species.
Their pollination of plants like saguaro and agave in our region determine an entire host of other animals dependent on those plants. Without them, we’d have a lot less agave and saguaro. They also keep tabs on explosions of various insect populations.
How to help the bats in our region
Plant their pollinator species.
Plant agaves (especially Agave parryi and Agave palmeri), organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi), and saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea). These plants are dependent on the bats, and the bats are dependent on them.
Install a bat house.
There are many designs. Choose the designs for the species that reside in our area. Here is a link to Bat Conservation International’s Criteria for Successful Bat Houses.
Consider constructing a wildlife pond.
The Frog Conservation Project has a very good guide to making a pond with native plants (good for supporting frogs and other wildlife as well). Bats try to be near water sources, even small ones. Planting a pond may also give you dragonflies, and birds that would not otherwise appear on your property. Installed correctly, they do NOT attract mosquitoes. But they DO attract lots of predator insects that consume mosquitoes in addition to attracting bats.
Plant tall trees, wind blocks, and hedgerows.
Bats like areas protected from heavy winds. But they also use large hedgerows and trees as perching and roosting sites, as well as stations to pause between eating—especially when these rows are near open areas. Dead trees are also great for bats. If they aren’t posing a danger, leave them. Birds are benefitted by all these suggestions as well.
If you have palms, leave the skirts.
Many bats, including some rare species, depend on palm skirts for roosting. Many other bird species do as well. Respect nature, and leave the skirts on your palm trees. And when you love wild things, palms look much more attractive with their skirts than they do when butchered.
Support organic agriculture.
Conventional agriculture harms not just bats, but pretty much all wild things. Supporting organic agriculture encourages businesses to do the right thing, and is also good for your own health! This is especially true of the small, local, organic farms that are more likely to have attachment to the future of their region.
Protect the wild habitat that bats depend on.
Respect the space bats occupy. If you are a spelunker, understand what areas should be avoided, particularly during breeding season. And support conservation and education groups that support bats, like Bat Conservation International.