There are 17 species of bats in the UK and all of them eat insects. They consume tons of them from spring to autumn. If you grow flowers that attract a range of insects into your garden, you can become a feeding station for a multitude of wildlife such as bats and birds and nature foots the bill!
Your garden can be a true wildlife garden. Plants depend on insects to pollinate them so they produce a wide array of attractive smells and a stunning variety of colours.
Bats and creepy crawlies Bats have massive appetites - flying uses lots of energy so they need bats need to eat thousands of insects a night. Around five of our coolest bat species prefer moths but the rest pluck for flies and other insects. Crane flies and midges reach the top of the menu. Did you know a tiny Pipistrelle alone can eat 3,000 mosquitoes a night - yes 3,000 - how cool is that.
Flower shapes and insect tongues Flowers with long narrow petal tubes, such as evening primrose and honeysuckle are visited by moths and butterflies. Only their long tongues can reach deep down to the hidden nectar. Short-tongued insects include many families of flies and some moths. They can only reach nectar in flowers with short florets. By planting a mixture of flowering plants, vegetables, trees and shrubs, you can encourage a diversity of insects to drop in and refuel.
Follow these general rules
• Plant flowers varying not only in colour and fragrance but also in shape.
• Daisies and daisy-like flowers are open with a mass of shallow florets.
• Pale flowers are more easily seen in poor light.
• Single flowers have more nectar than double varieties.
• Native wildflowers or those closely related are most useful.
• Flowers with landing platforms and short florets such as daisy or carrot family attract many insects.
• Many flowering vegetables such as beans and courgette are also good for insects.
Why not encourage flying pest controls in your garden
Plant trees and shrubs
These are important in providing
• food for insect larvae
• food for adult insects
• shelter for flying insects
• roosting opportunities for bats
In a small garden choose trees that can be coppiced – cut down to the ground every few years - to allow new shoots to spring from the base. Young shoots and leaves will support leaf-eating insects, even if they do not produce flowers. Hawthorn and elder are useful small trees.
Create a wet area A pond, a marshy area, even a half oak Barrel made into a mini-pond can attract insects. Many of the tiny flies favoured by bats start life in water as aquatic larvae
SAY NO TO INSECTICIDES Chemical pesticides kill natural predators and so may do more harm than good. They reduce bats’ insect prey and surviving insects carry traces of poison that kill the bats and have far-reaching effects up the food chain.
Encourage natural predators
• Hoverflies, wasps, ladybirds, lacewings, ground beetles and centipedes are the gardener’s friends. As natural predators, they help keep the balance by eating many pests.
• Allow some weeds to grow to provide ground cover for natural predators
• Grow favourites of hoverflies and other predators close to the flowers and vegetables that tend to become infested.
• Leave hollow-stemmed plants to over winter as a shelter for ladybirds.
•Leave heaps of dead leaves and brushwood undisturbed for hedgehogs.
• Most garden birds are effective predators. Provide them with regular food and water.
Keep your cats in at sunset
Many bats and other small mammals fall prey to Britain’s most prolific killer the domestic cat. Please bring you cat in an hour before sunset so bats can emerge undisturbed.
Which plants should I choose?
Bat-friendly gardeners should aim to plant a mixture of flowering plants, vegetables, trees and shrubs to encourage a diversity of insects, which in turn may attract different bat species. Flowers that bloom throughout the year, including both annuals and herbaceous perennials, are a good idea: night flowering blossoms attract night-flying insects. Trees and shrubs provide food for insects and roosting opportunities for bats. Approximate flowering periods are listed below, although they may vary according to area and weather conditions
Plants marked with * are hybrids or exotics that may be useful in your garden
Flowers for borders
*Aubrietia (spring to early summer)
*Candytuft (summer to autumn)
*Cherry pie (summer to autumn)
English Bluebell (spring)
*Evening primrose (summer to autumn)
Field poppies (summer)
*Ice plant ʻPink Ladyʼ (early autumn)
Knapweed (summer to autumn)
Mallow (summer to autumn)
*Mexican aster (summer to autumn)
*Michaelmas daisy (summer to autumn)
*Night scented stock (summer)
*Phacelia (summer to autumn)
*Poached egg plant (summer)
Red Campion (spring)
*Red valerian (summer to autumn)
St Johnʼs Wort (spring)
*Sweet William (summer)
*Verbena (summer to autumn)
*Wallflowers (spring to early summer)
Wood forget-me-not (spring)
Yarrow (early summer)
Herbs (both leaves & flowers are fragrant)
Bergamot (summer to early autumn)
Borage (spring to early autumn)
Fennel (summer to early autumn)
Feverfew (summer to autumn)
Hyssop (summer to early autumn)
Sweet Cicely (spring to early summer)
Trees, shrubs & climbers
Common alder (suitable for coppicing)
Dog rose (climber)
English oak (large gardens only)
Guelder rose (shrub)
Hawthorn (suitable for coppicing)
Hazel (suitable for coppicing)
Honeysuckle (native honeysuckle)
Pussy willow (suitable for coppicing)
Wildflowers for pond edges & marshy areas
Creeping Jenny (spring to summer)
Hemp agrimony (summer)
Ladyʼs smock (spring to summer)
Marsh marigold (spring)
Meadowsweet (summer to early autumn)
Purple loosestrife (summer)
Water forget-me-not (summer to autumn)
Water mint (summer to autumn)
PEST CONTROL THE NATURAL WAY
The tiny Pipistrelle bats eat over 3,000 mosquitoes a night. Bats sleep in the day and feed during the night, locating their prey by echolocation. Bats worldwide range in size from the flying fox with a wing span of 2 meters to a bat the size of a bee. They are intelligent, social mammals that can live for up to 30 years. All bats in the UK are relatively small – ranging from our smallest, the Pipistrelle, which weighs around 4-5 g (0.18 oz) and has a wingspan of 20 cm (8 in), to the 40 g (1.4 oz) Noctule with a 40 cm (16 inch) wingspan.
In the UK, bats feed exclusively on insects. Different species have different feeding behaviours. They may catch insects in flight, or pick them off the surface of open water or from the ground or foliage. In summer, bats emerge from their roosts at dusk to feed. The distances traveled to feeding sites vary considerably both within and between species. While some species feed close to their roost site, like brown long-eared bats, which normally forage within 1 km of their roost, others fly long distances – Noctules have been recorded flying more than 26 km to feeding areas
Bats use a number of foraging sites every night, moving between them to locate areas for high insect densities. They frequently return to the same foraging sites on a regular basis, sometimes visiting the same site at the same time each night. However, a large number of feeding areas are needed throughout the year as feeding patterns change in response to insect availability, which, in turn, alters both seasonally and with local Weather conditions. Particular foraging sites may be very important to a large number of bats and used by several species at the same time.
Bats are not rodents and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation in your loft space.
Bats do not build nests and do not bring bedding material or food into the roost.
Bats do not drink blood in the UK.