Winged creatures of the night
Although most animal and birdwatching takes place in the day, there's a whole host of creatures that come out and live their lives at night. They feed, hunt and breed, all during the sleeping hours, and all in your garden. One such animal is the bat. There are over 40 species of bats in North America, and chances are there will be bats living in close proximity to you. Contrary to popular belief, bats are very shy and gentle, and will not try to tangle into your hair or suck your blood. In fact, they're very interesting creatures and perform an important job in your garden - insect control.
Attracting bats to your garden will take a little bit of work. As with purple martin houses, things have to be just right in your yard so a bat will think of staying for more than just a visit. Hummingbird feeders and bat houses are big attractants, but you should do your research before slapping them up willy-nilly. Most bats will fly through your yard on the hunt for insects, but to entice them to stay you should have the following in your garden:
- Insect-attracting lighting. Bats most often hunt around streetlamps because they know that insects congregate there in hordes.
- Heavily-scented night-blooming plants that entice moths. Moths are some bats' favorite food. Some plants that moths are attracted to include evening primrose, eastern false aloe and joe-pye weed. Moths are also attracted to rotting sap and fruit.
- A source of water. This can be a bird bath, pond or even a puddle. Bats, like birds, need water first and foremost to live.
- A place to hide. A small border or a few hedges provide bats a place to go when they feel threatened by predators.
If you want bats to come to your yard, don't have:
- Pesticides. This is important to all forms of life, not just bats. Pesticides harm and kill birds and animals and are generally not a good idea in any yard.
- A roaming cat. Cats will hunt birds and bats, and are a non-native predator, so you'll need to be mindful of the possibly harmful effects of these feeder pests.
Making sure that your yard is a haven for bats will take some work, but you'll appreciate the reward when you get to observe the bat in its natural habitat.