Cre­ate per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for fly­ing mam­mals

Rochdale Observer - - THE LAUGHING BADGER -

THERE is some­thing com­fort­ing about watch­ing pip­istrelle bats fly­ing out­side the gallery in their tra­di­tional fig­ure of eight pat­terns as they nightly hunt for in­sects. Although they will soon be off the streets as the win­ter ap­proaches, this is as good a time as any to con­sider what you can do to at­tract the only true fly­ing mam­mal in the world to the en­vi­rons of your own home.

Fly­ing uses a lot of en­ergy, so bats have huge ap­petites. For ex­am­ple, a tiny com­mon pip­istrelle can eat around 3,000 midges, mos­qui­toes and other small flies in a sin­gle night. If that is not rea­son enough to gar­den for bats, I’ll eat my hat.

Moths, bee­tles and crane­flies (daddy long-legs) are pop­u­lar with other species, but flies are the main food for most Bri­tish bats.

Grow a wide range of plants to at­tract in­sects – and by plant­ing a mix­ture of flow­er­ing plants, veg­eta­bles, trees and shrubs, you can en­cour­age a di­ver­sity of in­sects to drop in and re­fuel.

Na­tive plants tend to sup­port far more species of in­sect than hy­brids or ex­otics, so they should be used as much as pos­si­ble.

Dif­fer­ent plants at­tract dif­fer­ent types of in­sects. Flow­ers with long nar­row pe­tal tubes, such as evening prim­rose and honey­suckle, are vis­ited by moths. Only their long tongues can reach deep down to the hid­den nec­tar. Short-tongued in­sects in­clude many fam­i­lies of flies and some moths – they can only reach nec­tar in flow­ers with short flo­rets.

Th­ese are im­por­tant in pro­vid­ing food for in­sect lar­vae and adult in­sects, shel­ter for fly­ing in­sects and roost­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for bats. In a small gar­den, choose trees that can be cop­piced – cut down to the ground ev­ery few years – to al­low new shoots to spring from the base.

●●CRE­ATE a wet area

No wildlife gar­den would be com­plete with­out a water fea­ture. Not only will a small pond, marshy area or even a bog pro­vide bats with some­where to drink, but they will also at­tract in­sects, as many of the tiny flies favoured by bats start life in water as aquatic lar­vae.

●●MAKE a com­post heap or log pile

Re­cy­cle kitchen and gar­den waste – such as fruit and veg­etable trim­mings, an­nual weeds and lawn clip­pings – to pro­duce use­ful gar­den com­post, as well as an ideal habi­tat for in­sects. A log pile in a damp, shady spot will also en­cour­age in­sects, par­tic­u­larly bee­tles.

●●AVOID us­ing pes­ti­cides

Chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides kill non-tar­get ben­e­fi­cial in­ver­te­brates in­clud­ing nat­u­ral preda­tors and can do more harm than good.

●●EN­COUR­AGE nat­u­ral preda­tors

Hov­er­flies, wasps, la­dy­birds, lacewings, ground bee­tles and cen­tipedes are friends, and nat­u­ral pest con­trollers. Al­low weeds to grow to pro­vide ground cover for nat­u­ral preda­tors.

A prob­lem often faced by bats in gar­dens is cats. If you own a cat, you can help save lives by bring­ing your cat in for the night half-an-hour be­fore sun­set.

The bats will also be able to re­turn at dawn undis­turbed by cats. If you find a bat that ap­pears to have been in­jured by a cat, call the bat helpline on 0345 1300 228 for de­tails.

●●A pip­istrelle bat takes flight

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