WHICH PLANTS CAN ATTRACT BATS INTO THE GARDEN




Which plants can help attract bats to the garden? At first glance this seems like a rather odd question, especially when even most school children know that bats will either eat insects, fruit or drink blood – depending on who you talk to.

Image credit - http://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/
Luckily in the UK none of our bat species drink blood, but because flying uses a lot of energy they do have enormous appetites when it comes to eating insects – which all of our native bats do.

Five species, including the long-eared bat, prefer moths, but most bats rely more heavily on flies as food more than any other insect group.

Especially important are craneflies, and a range of midge families and their relatives. In a recent study Pipistrelles - the bat most likely to visit your garden – have been shown to eat as many as 3000 insect in a single night!

During this century bats populations have been decreasing at an alarming rate; in fact some species have fallen by over 50 per cent. As a result, the greater horseshoe bat, once found throughout southern England, has now become extremely very rare, along with sightings of the elusive Bechstein's and barbastelle bat.

Image credit - http://www.bio.bris.ac.uk/
Sadly, the mouse-eared bat has been declared officially extinct since 1992. One of the major reasons for this is the steady decline in night flying insects - vital in supporting healthy bat populations.

However by providing suitable plants and habitats - such as wildlife ponds and log-piles - insect numbers can be easily increased to provide more food for adult bats supporting their young.

A word of warning - never use indiscriminate, insecticides in areas frequented by bats as this can dramatically reduce the available food source and contaminate their food chain.

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Below is a list of nectar rich plants that will encourage more insects into the garden although if you only get to choose one, pick either the fantastic Euonymus japonicus or the native Ivy - mature form preferably.

Buddleia, Arabis, Aubrietia, Wallflowers and Polyanthus. Sedum spectabile - not the fancy cultivars, Honeysuckle, alyssum, Asters, Phlox, Rosemary, Hyssop, Lavender – especially Munstead, french marigolds , Hebe – particularly Great Orme and Mid-summer Beauty, Verbena bonariensis, Heliotrope, Echivera - ice plant, Chrysanthemum swan lake, Bergamot, and Marjoram.

Also consider growing the following native plants. The European Gorse, Ivy - hedera helix, Hazel, Honeysuckle - Lonicera periclymenum, Elder and English marigolds.

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