Bats are often portrayed as vampire-like creatures and something to fear, especially at this time of year. However, many UK bat species are actually very small and vulnerable, eating only insects, and could welcome a helping hand as winter approaches.
Playing an important role in pollination and seed dispersal, these nocturnal mammals are vital to preserving our environment. A common pipistrelle will eat up to 3,000 midges and other small insects every night, although only weighing the same as a 20p coin!
Putting up bat boxes now, whilst bats are mating and preparing for hibernation, can give your local bat population a huge boost. For best results, site your bat box in a sturdy tree or building where bats have been seen or are known to feed, in a sheltered spot facing south or southwest to absorb the direct daily sunlight. Position it as high as possible between 2-5m with a clear ‘flight-path’ for access, with nearby water, night flowering plants and dim lighting an added attraction.
Most bat species prefer to roost in crevices during the day but some, such as long-eared and horseshoe bats, need space such as a small loft area in which to fly around before dispersing to feed, and prefer to hang from a roof or ridge beam rather than crawl into a narrow niche. The crevice roosting species are the ones best served by bat boxes as they cannot make their own roost and use bat boxes as an alternative to limited natural habitats.
CJ Wildlife offers a great range of bat boxes ideal for gardens. The Chillon WoodStone® Bat Box is made from a highly durable mix of concrete and wood fibres. It can accommodate up to 15 common pipistrelle bats which are very sociable mammals and prefer to live in colonies. The Almodovar Wooden Bat Box is divided into two sections providing space for a greater number of bats and suitable species such as the brown long-eared or pipistrelle bats, with the ‘landing ramps’ and interiors of these boxes textured for extra grip.
The end of November will mark the beginning of the long winter hibernation, and we won’t see bats on the wing again until March or April. UK bats are protected species under the Wildlife & Countryside Acts so should not be disturbed, especially during hibernation or breeding periods.
Visit the Bat Conservation Trust website for more information on bats, local projects and how you can get involved – www.bats.org.uk