Bats are active at night and so often go unseen. They are predators of insects, some of which are garden pests or nuisance insects, such as mosquitoes. Bat numbers have declined over the last 50 years and so they will benefit from steps taken to make gardens more bat-friendly. Bats are also recognised biodiversity indicators and their presence is an indication of a healthy, insect-rich environment.
Which bats occur in gardens?
There are 17 species of bats in Britain. The more common species that use gardens for feeding or daytime shelter are the common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, noctule and Daubenton's bat. Other species may also be present.
What do bats need?
All British bats feed on insects, particularly those types that are active at dusk and during the night. In addition to moths, bats eat other insects, such as mosquitoes, midges and other flies, mayflies, some beetles, caddis flies, lacewings and other nocturnal insects. Bats mostly catch insects on the wing, using echo location to home in on their prey. Some bats will pick off insects that are resting on foliage.
During the day, bats hide in dark places, such as in hollow trees, roof spaces, under tiles and soffits, loose bark on trees, or in splits in the trunks and branches of trees. At different times of the year, bats will move between several resting places that are used as daytime roosts, maternity roosts where females give birth and nurse their young, and hibernation sites for the winter months.
Some bats, such as Daubenton's bat, specialise in swooping low over ponds and other water bodies where they feed on insects such as adult caddis flies, mayflies and other insects with aquatic larvae.
Linear features in the landscape, such as hedges and streams, are important for bats, both as feeding areas and navigation pathways that are used by bats as they travel between roosting sites and feeding areas.