Gardening for bats
We are lucky enough to have all 18 species of British bat in Sussex, 17 of which are known to breed here. That’s almost a quarter of our total mammal species! You probably won't see all of them in your garden, but with just a little bit of effort you can certainly attract a few.
Gardening for bats is all about increasing the number and diversity of insects in your garden. Bats have huge appetites due to the amount of energy they burn flying around. The Pipistrelle is the species most frequently seen in gardens. It is our smallest bat, yet it can eat an estimated 3,000 gnats and midges every night! Generally, bats will eat a range of insects with most species relying on a good supply of flies to keep them going. However, some are more specialist. The Brown Long-Eared bat for example prefers to snack on moths, whilst the large Serotine has a taste for beetles.
Your garden can help bats get a sufficient supply of food from spring until autumn, when they go into hibernation. Along with providing food, water and shelter, the gardens in a neighbourhood can create essential corridors that help bats and other wildlife move through urban landscapes and adapt to climate change.
Things To Remember
- A special licence is required to disturb or handle bats in the UK so any disturbance without a licence is illegal. This means once you have put a bat box up you cannot open it or move it unless you have a licence.
- If you are using insecticides in your garden you are killing off essential food supplies for bats.
- Many bats and other small mammals fall prey to the natural hunting instinct of domestic cats. It is best to keep cats inside for the hour before sunset to allow bats to emerge more safely.
- The best way to experience the nocturnal world of bats is with a bat detector.These devices enable you to listen to the bats’ high frequency calls, usually too high pitched to hear. They can even help you to tell one species from another. Your local bat group will probably hold bat walks throughout the summer months, so keep an eye out.