Inviting Bats to Your Yard
Bats make great gardening buddies. Learn more about these all-natural pest controllers.
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"The mere mention of the word bat can conjure up visions of blood-sucking, rabies-infested creatures from horror movies. But the truth is," says master gardener Paul James, " bats are actually great gardening buddies."
"Only vampire bats feed on the blood of animals, " James continues, "and they don’t live anywhere in North America."
All the bats that call North America home are all-natural pest contollers. Just one bat is capable of consuming more than 500 night-flying insects in a single hour! These ravenous little pest controllers love nothing more than munching mosquitoes, but they also devour leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, flies and moths.
And as an added bonus, bats provide nutrient rich fertilizer in the form of bat guano, a prized fertilizer with high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, two of plant’s favorite nutrients.
Bat expert Dharma Weber debunks the myths that surround these furry flying gardening friends. "We have 45 species of bats in North America. Forty two of them eat insects, " says Dharma. " The last three are nectar and pollen feeders."
One myth is that bats are flying rodents. "Actually bats are not related to rodents at all," says Dharma. "They are in a class of their own called Chiropteran, which means 'hand wing.' " That’s because the parts on the wing that look like sticks of a kite are actually fingers!
What about the concern that bats spread rabies? "Bats do not get rabies any more than other mammals," Dharma explains. And what about the expression "blind as a bat"? That’s a myth too. Bats use their sight as well as a chirping sound and other inaudible sonic sounds known as echo location to find insects.
So what do bats eat? It depends on the subspecies of bat. The Pacific Pallet bat, for instance, found along the coast in northern California, delights in centipedes and scorpions, but it also relishes meal worms. Mexican free tail bats are specially equipped with long, slender wings for feeding at high altitudes in warmer parts of the U.S.
So how do you attract bats? Build a bat house!
Paul James visits a young family to make sure their garden is organically safe for daughter Kaylee