5 Ways To Attract Bats To Your Yard

Want free fertilizer? Fewer pesky insects? Bats can help.

October 20, 2016
bat flying
Bird Hunter/shutterstock

It’s unfair how bad a rap bats get. Between the vampire films, spooky decorations, and blood-sucking ghost stories, you’d think they were all out to get us. That couldn’t be further from the truth: Bats are relatively harmless and rarely bite humans—unless provoked. (So don’t poke!)

Forget their fearsome reputation, and consider trying to attract bats rather than avoid them. If you garden or spend a lot of time outside, bats are quite beneficial. Most North American bats eat insects and offer an excellent alternative to mosquito repellent, gobbling up over 1000+ mosquitoes per hour. An ordinary colony of 75 bats can devour up to 75,000 insects in a single hour—talk about organic pest control! Another perk: bat droppings, otherwise known as guano, act as a nutrient-dense fertilizer, making that garden of yours thrive like never before.

(On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale's The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today.)

So how can you bring bats to your neighborhood? Like all creature, bats seek food, water, and shelter. Here's how to make your backyard move-in ready for these productive creatures.

bat hanging from cave ceiling
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Find Out What Bats Are Nearby

If you're in an urban area, it'll be harder to spot bats. You might want to reach out to a bat enthusiast group or locate an expert leading local walks. Contact the Bat Conservation International for more information. A little research can go a long way toward creating an appealing environment for local bats. 

Related: Are Bats The Ultimate Answer In The Quest For Natural Insect Control?

birdbath
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Offer A Water Source

According to Bat Conservation International’s Water for Wildlife program, “Studies of bat physiology have documented water loss of up to 50 percent of body weight in a single day. Even the most desert-adapted bat species periodically need water, and the loss of a single source can threaten the survival of local populations.” Unsurprisingly, having a water feature such as a pond on your property can really make it very enticing for bats. If you don't have a natural water source nearby, PennState Extension recommends installing a birdbath or fountain to attract more bats to your backyard. 

dahlias
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Let Your Garden Act As A Magnet

Make your garden work for you while you sleep. Fragrant flowers and herbs, as well as night-blooming plants, are all known to attract night-feeding insects, which, in turn, lure bats (check out what happens in your garden while you're sleeping). The more insects, the better. Try planting dahlia, French marigold, nicotiana, evening primrose, thyme, raspberry, or honeysuckle. Keep in mind that plants with flowers may help attract moths, and plants with pale colored flowers also have a good chance of catching the eye of nocturnal insects.

bat house
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Build (Or Buy) A Bat House

To attract bats to roost in your yard, you’ll need a place for them to call home—a bat house! Buy one online (we like the Rodale's Conservation Bat House), at your local home improvement store, or build one yourself. (DIYers can download this Small Economy Bat House plan from Bat Conservation International's site.) Here's how to make a home fit for a bat:

Choose the right location.
Mount the bat house on a pole (15+ feet high to protect it from predators) or on the side of a building. Tree-mounted homes are a no-no, since they're easily accessible to predators and can offer too much shade. Bats need a certain amount of height to drop down before they catch flight, so the bat house must be high enough for them to fly away without being within reach of an animal nabbing them on their downward journey.

Keep it small.
Bats like narrow, tight spaces to call home, similar to the space between a tree trunk and its bark. Since they don’t build nests, like birds do, they won’t be carting nesting materials to the bat house. Instead, make sure the surface inside is slightly rough, making it easy for them to claw up.

Maintain an ideal temperature.
Bats prefer warmer climates, and temperatures between 85-100° F. Face the bat home south to southeast—that way, when the sun rises, the bat house catches the heat and warms up.

Do a security check.
The bat house provides a respite from wind and rain, not to mention dangerous predators. Inspect it regularly from spring to early fall to make sure no bees or wasps have taken up shop.

You'll know your bat home is a success and the bats have taken up residence when droppings begin appearing around the house on the ground.

old attic space
5/5 jerryjoz/shutterstock
Guard Your Own Home

Before you put out the welcome mat for bats, make sure you're not accidentally inviting them into your own home. Bats and humans are more compatible when they aren’t sharing residency. Since bats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, you’ll want to seal up any openings around your own house. Bats love old homes, with all their nooks and crannies, in particular, and often move into attics.

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