TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham and award-winning garden designer Juliet Sargeant are using Wild About Gardens Week to urge gardeners to do more to help bats this autumn.  

Often wrongly thought of as a pest, bats are in fact highly efficient natural pest controllers, eating hundreds of tiny insects every night, including many of the pests that can be damaging to plants and biting insects.

The UK’s 17 species of bats are coming under increasing pressure as the wooded areas, ponds and open green spaces they use to feed and roost are shrinking. However, with an estimated 15 million gardens and 27 million gardeners in the UK, this green-fingered army is in a unique position to utilise its network of gardens to create green corridors for bats and ensure that these important mammals don't just survive but thrive.
 

“I love watching bats swoop and pirouette around my garden and I stand entranced, trying to imagine what it is like to be them, what it is really like to fly that fast, to ‘see’ with sound," says Packham. "We can all do our bit to make our gardens more welcoming to bats and all sorts of other wildlife.”

 


Here are some things gardeners can do to help bats:

  1. Plant insect-friendly flowers such as Michaelmas daisies – these will attract insects such as moths and make a ‘bat feast’

  2. Coppice woody plants such as elder and willow to support leaf-eating insects that help feed our bats

  3. Stop mowing a patch of lawn to let the grass grow long – this too is habitat for insect larvae

  4. Retain mature trees in a garden – those with hollows can make excellent bat roosts

  5. Start a compost heap – lots of bat prey will live in it

  6. Put up a bat box or build your own

  7. If space allows, build a small pond or water feature – midges and aquatic larvae are the favourites of the pipistrelle bat

  8. Reduce light pollution which disorientates bats – fit hoods to security lighting and only use low intensity garden lights

  9. Avoid pesticides in the garden, especially insecticides that will reduce the prey of bats

  10. In summer, keep cats indoors an hour before sunset when bats emerge from their roosts

 

“It’s no problem for me to find space for things like aubretia, jasmine and Michaelmas daisies,” says Juliet. “And it seems that almost any herb keeps them happy. I am definitely going to plant with bats in mind from now on.”


The Wild About Gardens Week is organised by the RHS, The Wildlife Trusts and Bat Conservation Trust. Find a Wild About Gardens Week event here.


Images ©Tom Marshall (top) and ©Hugh Clark (bottom)
 


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