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If you are looking for a natural way to control mosquitoes and other annoying insects around your property, consider the bat. Arkansas is home to 16 bat species. According to the University of Arkansas Agriculture Department, studies of brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) indicate a single bat consumes 500 – 1,200 mosquitoes per hour! Imagine what a difference a few bats could make when it comes to enjoying your outdoor space at dusk.
To attract bats to your property, it’s helpful to understand the nature of the world’s only flying mammal. Before we discuss ways to create a bat-friendly habitat, read this article on Bats in Arkansas for an overview of the feeding and roosting habits of bats.
Go Native. Planting native vegetation—trees, shrubs, and flowers—will help attract a variety of insects. Since bats only eat insects, that’s a good thing.
But wait. If bats will feast on mosquitoes (and mosquitoes are plentiful), why bother providing other insects? Because just like humans, bats appreciate diversity in their diet. A native garden with a variety of insects will make your property more appealing than, say, your neighbor who grows turf and non-native flowers.
Water Source. Bats prefer to live within a quarter of a mile from a water source. Here in Arkansas, we have plentiful lakes and ponds, which makes for an overall desirable bat habitat. If your immediate area is without a natural source, adding a water feature can help.
Avoid Pesticides. Bottom line, the goal is to create a well-balanced, healthy, pollinator-friendly environment. Pesticides kill the food bats eat.
Snag Trees. Do you have a dead tree on your property? If it isn’t a hazard, leave it. You may have a natural bat house. Bats will often roost in the rough, tight gaps between the bark and wood.
Don’t bother with Bat Attractants. You might be tempted to buy bat attractants in the form of sprays or guano to help lure bats to your garden paradise. Experts say this is a waste of money. (Bat guano is, however, a nutrient-rich garden fertilizer.)
Grow a Moon Garden. Consider adding a few night bloomers to your garden mix. Flowers that bloom after sunset attract night-flying insects such as moths. Bats are the most significant predator of night-flying insects. Lovely night-blooming choices include phlox, fleabane, goldenrod, evening primrose, and moonflowers.
Install a Bat House. Bat houses can be purchased commercially or built at home. Whether you go the do-it-yourself route or buy a pre-fabricated house, construction and installation of your bat house will likely determine your success in attracting bats.
Size and Style Matters. Tiny houses may be all the rage for people these days, but they aren’t the preferred home of bats.
Many garden centers and home improvement stores sell bat houses with only one chamber. These boxes may be considered “starter” bat houses, an easy way to get your feet wet in the area of hosting bats on your property. Fair Warning: bats prefer more cozy interiors, so you’ll likely have better success with multi-chambered houses.
DIY House. For the do-it-yourselfer, use untreated plywood or cedar because bats are sensitive to chemicals. (You can paint or stain the outside.) Make sure seams are sealed, and screws are flush. A variety of building plans can be found online, including via The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service website.
Credit: University of Arkansas FSA9088 Bats In and Around Your Home
BCI-certified. If you decide to purchase a bat house, consider buying one that is certified by Bat Conservation International.
Location, Location, Location.
Business owners and city planners—why not install bat-friendly habitats around commercial properties and in public places such as schools, parks, and office buildings?
This bat house at David W. McKee Architect in Fayetteville doubles as an outdoor sculpture. It’s visible from the Razorback Greenway.
Bat positives greatly outweigh the unlikely negatives. But if you are concerned bats could bring health problems, these facts from Bat World Sanctuary will put you at ease:
If a colony of bats takes up residence in the attic of your house (and you find them to be a nuisance), do not attempt to remove them. Contact the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for wildlife nuisance assistance.
Staff at Petit Jean State Park installing bat houses
Arkansas—The Bat State?
Are you planning to install a bat house this summer? Do you have bat success stories to share? We’d love to hear from you!
Wouldn’t it be great if Arkansas became known for its numerous bat-friendly habitats?
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