There are 13 species of bat that have been found in Suffolk over the past thirty years, from the most common pipistrelle to records of a lone hibernating lesser horseshoe bat. But whatever the species, a fleeting encounter with a bat is probably one of the most magical and rewarding for a wildlife gardener.
Much of what you do elsewhere in the Living Garden, from pond creation to avoiding using chemicals, will impact on the number of bats that visit in that they boost food supplies in the form of invertebrates.
Boosting bats’ food sources
Before you plan any changes, look beyond your garden at what bats already have access to nearby. Try to enhance what is already available because bats live and feed over a wide area. It is worth looking at some of the general advice about attracting wildlife to your garden as the number of invertebrates will directly affect the popularity of your garden.
Habitat piles, sowing wildflower seeds in areas of garden, as well as planting herbs and old fashioned garden annuals will boost insect populations. Larvae and adults alike will also feed on patches of your lawn that are left to grow.
The presence of a trees and shrubs are also desirable in that they can provide both shelter and warmth to insects. Rows of bushes or trees can be created or improved to help encourage concentrations of invertebrates and provide a feeding area for bats.
Creating a pond is perhaps one of the most effective ways to increase invertebrate numbers. Many minibeasts start life in freshwater, emerging only as adults. As one pipistrelle may eat up to 3,000 insects in a night, a pond is an important part of any garden designed to attract bats.
Night scented flowers
In addition to general measures to increase biodiversity and the number of invertebrates in your garden, by growing night-scented flowers like Nottingham catchfly, bramble or white jasmine, you can attract moths and other nightflying insects.
|Plant type||English name|
|Bedding plants||Nottingham catchfly
|Trees and shrubs||Oak
|Rock plants for walls||Ivy-leaved toadflax
Rockeries, habitat piles and ponds
A well-placed rockery can provide an excellent roost site for bats. If you have room try building a rockery using the principles of dry-stone walling. A double-sided wall, filled with stones and incorporating very little soil, can become an attractive feature as mosses and lichens colonise. The spaces will soon become home to invertebrates that bats feed on, as well as a potential roost site.
Alternatively, if an earth bank faced with drystone walling is more suitable to your garden, leave cavities in the centre as well as plenty of small holes in the facing.
With habitat in short supply, bat boxes are also an important addition to a wildlife garden. See our guide on how to make your own bat-friendly box.
Useful numbers and addresses
To get involved with local bat conservation you can join The Suffolk Bat Group - visit their Facebook page here.
For other questions on bat conservation phone the Bat Conservation Trust on 0345 1300 228 or view our FAQ.