Attracting bats to your smallholding will mean that you will benefit from the bats’ contribution to biodiversity. Pay no attention to the negative perceptions about bats that have been created by vampire stories. Bats are seriously useful creatures to have on your plot.
Their main value lies in the fact that most of them are insectivorous, living mostly on mosquitoes, moths, midges and beetles.
A common bat in South Africa, the Cape Serotine Bat (Neoromicia capensis), weighs between 6-10g, yet it can eat over 2000 mosquitoes per night.
Owners of horses should particularly encourage bats to visit as they eat the midges that carry African Horse Sickness.
Some bats eat crop pests, so those of us who grow crops should be encouraging them. bats are also important pollinators.
Create a Bat Friendly Environment
Consciously keep an environmentally friendly space without the use of insecticides and poisons.
Most smallholdings have security lights, but you can also put up garden lights to attract the insects which will then attract the bats.
Bats need a source of clean water, which they can skim over. A garden pond with short plants on opposite sides is an excellent water resource for bats. They may also use raised birdbaths that are located in an open space.
They are attracted to flowers that open at night and are fragrant, like the Barringtonia racemorsa (powderpuff tree) and Kigelia Africana (sausage tree), as well as large white, scented flowers.
According to Gretchen Grenville of Grow Wild, some of the best trees for bats are Harpephyllum caffrum, Podocarpus latifolius, Syzygium cordatum and Strelitzia nicolai. Most bats roost in the same place every night.
We can also purchase or construct bat boxes to hang in the garden. There are ready-made bat boxes available or if you are into DIY, there are plans available for you to make your own.
Ignorance and superstition are bats’ greatest enemies. Unfortunately many people misunderstand bats. They fear them and consider them dangerous, so will not hesitate to kill one if they find it in their homes. This, combined with human encroachment on their natural habitats, is placing pressure on bat populations.
There are groups such as the Gauteng Bat Interest Group that will provide more support in attracting bats to your smallholding.