Bats are stars of the night, seen swooping through the night sky in the pursuit of their prey. Little understood, just what is the truth about these enigmatic mammals?

Did you know, all British bats eat insects!

Bats are mammals which means, like us, they give birth to live, defenceless young that feed on their mother's milk. They might look large due to their wing span, but UK species of bats are actually deceptively small.

They range in size from the pipistrelle, weighing only about the same as a 2p coin, to the noctule, which weighs in at up to 40g (about the same as four £1 coins!).

Yum

All British bats eat insects, which makes them a gardener's friend. Each species has its own favourites, but they all need a lot to keep them satisfied as flying uses lots of energy. A pipistrelle bat can eat more than 500 tiny insects in just an hour!

Image credit: Hugh Clark

Go 'batty' this Wild About Gardens Week

Our bat populations are at risk. With fewer wooded areas, ponds and open grass spaces for them to feed and roost, their habitat is shrinking.  

That's why this year we've teamed up with RHS and the Bat Conservation Trust to raise awareness of the simple steps everybody can take to help bats in their area. 

Download your FREE booklet, showing how you can help bats, here!

How you can help bats

Grow insect-friendly plants...and enter our competition!

All UK bats feed exclusively on insects, so a high density of insects is essential for bat populations to thrive. Aim to grow as wide a range of flowers throughout the year as possible to attract a diversity of insects.

Not sure what to plant? Take a look in our Wild About Gardens Week booklet for tips and advice.

You can also enter our competition! We want to see the best insect-friendly plant displays. It doesn't matter how big or small they are - it could be a rookery, window box, a border for an entire garden! Find out how to enter here.

Time to get crafty!

If you want to put your building skills to use, have a go at these activities. Click on the images to download the sheets, and enjoy!

Build a bat box

 

This is a great activity for autumn, as it will provide housing for next year's roost.

Ensure that you never disturb a bat box once it's up. All bat species and their roosts are now legally protected. 

Make your own compost heap

A compost heap will attract bat prey - insects!

It's also a great way to avoid buying peat compost, which is harmful to the environment.

 

Make an insect hotel

 

 

This will provide a great feast for bats, as well as other animals that might frequent your garden.

It can also provide much needed habitats for a wide range of insects, including solitary bees.

Build a wildlife pond

 

A wildlife pond will support the aquatic larvae of some favourite bat prey.

Also, if you want to see more wildlife in your garden, building a pond is the best way to achieve this. Remember though, a wildlife pond should NOT contain fish. 

Reduce your light pollution

This may not be an obvious one, but it's absolutely vital. Artificial light, such as street lights, garden security lighting, or decorative lighting on homes and trees, can have a detrimental effect on bats by affecting the time they roost and come out to hunt. 

By reducing or turning off your garden lighting you can help your neighbourhood bats. Alternatively, if you'd prefer to keep security lighting, consider changing your settings to a dimmer light or fit hoods/cowls over them to limit light pollution. 

Avoid using pesticides

Instead, encourage natural predators! You may wish to get rid of pesky garden pests, but these are all needed for a healthy ecosystem. Natural predators such as predatory beetles, centipedes, hoverflies, ladybirds, lacewings and ground beetles, will happily move into compost heaps, log piles and rockeries, and show their appreciation by polishing off your garden pests.

Get crafty and spread the word! 

Print off and decorate your bat mask (or print off a pre-coloured version) and take a selfie wearing it! 

Download your bat masks now and share your selfie on social media using #WildAboutGardens 

What are Wildlife Trusts doing to help?

Across the UK, Wildlife Trusts are working to restore habitats for bats. Alongside this, some Wildlife Trusts run specific projects aimed at researching and monitoring bat populations.

Here are a few examples of how the Trusts are working to protect bats:

 Lancashire Wildlife Trust
Devon Wildlife Trust 
Tees Valley Wildlife Trust 

Moston Bat Conservation Project was launched in December 2015, supported by a grant from The Veolia Environmental Trust, to help improve Moston Brook for all wildlife, but particularly the bat species that live in the area.

This project is improving the quality of this habitat for species such as frogs, newts and birds, this work will help to increase the amount of insects breeding in the wetland; the perfect food for our bat species.

In addition, major infrastructure improvements to site access, a 450m footpath and brand new signage and entrances have already been achieved by the partnership.

The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project is a 5 year partnership project of 19 organisations, led by Devon Wildlife Trust, and is supported by the National Lottery, through the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as other funders. 

The population of Greater Horsehoe Bats has declined by over 90% in the UK during the last century. This project works with landowners and the people of Devon with the vision of securing the future of the GHB in Devon.

The East Cleveland Bat Project aims to increase appreciation and understanding of the number of different bats in East Cleveland and how they are using the landscape to roost, forage and commute.

The wooded nature of East Cleveland and the rural character of the landscape give it the potential to be important for more than eight species of bats, including some of the rarer bats.

Over the next two years the Trust will be conducting different bat surveys across the whole of East Cleveland to collate as much information on the presence of bats.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust

 

The Wolseley Centre (Staffs Wildlife Trust HQ) have teamed up with Staffordshire Bat Group to begin a bat project.

With the help of volunteers they have made a number of bat boxes to go up on site, as well as purchasing some. Alongside this, other boxes are being renewed. 

The bat group will be monitoring the boxes as part of the project in the years to come. 

To find out more about other projects that Staffordshire Wildlife Trust are involved with, follow the button below. 

 

 

 

In 2011 a maternity colony of barbastelle bats was discovered by Herts and Middlesex Bat Group in the Bishops Stortford area. These are amongst the rarest bats in the UK and Europe.

This colony is threatened by the proposals to build a major by-pass on the A120, close to their maternity sites.

In 2016 Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust are running a barbastelle bat project, with the aim of protecting and enhancing the current population.

 

Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust monitor bats (mainly Lesser Horseshoe) in the mine at Roundton Hill, contributing to the National Bat Monitoring Programme.

They also work with their local bat group to monitor and review the bat boxes on their sites. 

Alongside this the Trust also run at least one ‘Bat & moth night’ in collaboration with the local moth group, which is a very popular, family-friendly event. Follow the link below to see this year's events.

 


Shropshire Wildlife Trust
Alderney Wildlife Trust
 
 

Three lesser horseshoe bats from a roost at the Llynclys Common nature reserve have been ringed as part of a research project to discover the foraging and roosting habits of both lesser and greater horseshoe bats in the Tanat Valley area of Wales/north-west Shropshire.  

Find out more about this nature reserve by following the link below. 

Alderney Wildlife Trust undertake monthly activity surveys and roost surveys of Alderney's bats as part of their Enviornmental Impact Assessment work.

Alongside this they run bat walks and talks to engage with the community.

Find out more about Alderney's events by following the link below: