One of the most seldom seen animals native to the UK is the bat. Linked to vampires, and thought to want to suck your blood, these tiny creatures are greatly misunderstood and are the victims of a pretty effective propaganda campaign that is hugely unfair.

Bats won’t suck your blood, won’t infest your property, and are not rodents but in fact mammals. Bat mommas only have one baby per year so there is no need to worry about millions of bats flapping about in your nooks and crannies.

The case for bats
They are not only nocturnal, but they also use echolocation as a means to navigate about in the deep of the night. Thought to work like sonar, echolocation is far more effective than sight at night and works by locating prey through echoes. Bats send out a shouting sound that we cannot hear, and then the returning echo tells them what might be in their path – effective and definitely only deadly if you are a flying insect.

You may well have seen bats flitting about like shadows around dusk time, and you have probably mistaken them for swifts or swallows more times than you would think – these guys are everywhere if you know where to look.

Bats are also a hugely useful creature to have in your garden. They do a fantastic job of hoovering up annoying flying insects like mosquitoes and midges, and help to control spider and fly numbers. Without them, we’d be overrun by irritating biting insects.

UK bat species
There are seventeen different species of bat in the UK, all of them characterized by their nocturnal habits, and winter hibernation. The most common of British bats is the teeny tiny pipistrelle. These little guys are just 3.5 cm long, have brown furry bodies and a wingspan of thirty centimetres. Hardly the stuff of nightmares. You’re most likely to spot pipistrelles around dusk when they come out to munch on flying insects.

Bats love old buildings, caves and trees as favourite spots to roost in. All known bat-nesting sites are protected by law and most bats like to visit their roost every year, though they don’t stay year round.

How do I know if I have bats?
If you think you might have bats roosting on your property, look out for their droppings. Bat droppings are small and oval in shape, very similar in appearance to rodent droppings. The easy way to tell the difference is that bat droppings are dry and crumble to dust.

Another enjoyable way to tell if you have bats, is to watch for them emerging from your house or garden around dusk. You can also take part in a national survey of bats as part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme.

How can I attract bats to my garden?

The best way to attract bats to your garden is to plant night scented flowers like jasmine, gardenia, wisteria, and moonflowers. These plants attract night flying insects like moths, and where there are night flying insects, there are also bats. Bat boxes, ponds, and wild areas also help to attract these brilliant creatures to your garden.

How about you, what changes can you make to encourage bats into your garden?