Bat-friendly gardeners

Did you know? Bats flying over your garden is a sign of a healthy, flourishing garden.

When the Stonehouse Gardening Club visited the bat roosts at Woodchester Mansion in early August 2022, we were delighted at the size of the rare horseshoe bats. With their wings folded, they are the size of a walnut. We got to view them on state-of-the-art bat cams in the bat observatory, but also stood outside the mansion, entranced as we watched them emerge into the soft dusk from an attic window.

During her talk to us about Woodchester Mansion’s bats, Gemma Waters reminded us that bats flitting across a garden after sunset are a very welcome sight for a gardener. Bats in your garden affirms the health of the environment, of the place you are in. 

In addition to just being a delight, bats are also very useful creatures as they pollinate plants and eat insects. Pipistrelle bats devour around 3000 midges and mosquitoes in a day! They eat flies of all types.

How do we encourage bats in the garden?

If you have a diversity of insects, you’ll have bats. If you don’t, to attract the bats you will want to have the following:

  1. Night scented flowers.
  2. Trees and shrubs like buddleia, night-scented jasmine, silver birch and oak. Coppice hawthorn or common alder, if your garden is very small. This also gives bats a place to roost. Remember, native plants support far more species of insect than exotics or hybrids.
  3. Water in a pond, big or small, a bog garden, to provide water for bats to drink and to attract insects.
  4. A log pile in a shady place or a compost heap. 
  5. Differently shaped flowers blooming round the year, such as aubrietia or wallflowers flowering in the spring, yarrow and field poppies in the summer, night-scented stock, red valeria from summer to autumn, and herbs like borage, bergamot and fennel.
  6. A little wild patch. Have wildflowers such as marsh marigold, flag iris and meadowsweet for pond edges and marshy areas.
  7. A range of habitats such a vegetable garden and hedgerow. Hedge and tree lines help bats to navigate.
  8. Do encourage hoverflies, wasps, ladybirds, lacewings and centipedes to help keep a balance so that pests don’t overwhelm you.

Nurture your wildlife

  • Have a pesticide-free garden.
  • Reduce artificial light in the garden and avoid flood lights! And don’t have any light that points at a bat roost.
  • Do remember to bring the cat in before sunset. My cat has no interest in bats, as he does his hunting in his plate, but if your cats are true hunters, that is when they might snack on your lovely bats.

Don’t forget

Make sure you have a comfy seat in a strategic spot in your garden, and when the sun goes down, watch your garden come to life.

Image credits: Gemma Waters