Bats seem to be on every gardener’s radar lately. Sarah Bouboulis, a habitat project coordinator with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, is enthusiastic that anyone can learn to love these nighttime insect eaters.
Join Mt. Cuba for an online class on Wednesday, July 15 from 6 to 730 pm as Bouboulis highlights the species of bats native to Delaware, where they live, and how to include suitable shelters and landscape elements for bats in your yard. Tickets are available to attend.
We sat down with Sarah to find out more about why bats could be our new best friends.
Mt. Cuba Center: Bats tend to get a bad rep, why should people reconsider them when thinking about gardening for wildlife?
Sarah Bouboulis: Bats have been getting a bad rep lately. But for every perceived danger they evoke, there are many more benefits they provide for us and our ecosystem. Rabies and disease transmission are real; but if we leave bats alone, they’ll leave us alone (for the most part). The bats in our backyards are insectivores and they can eat thousands of insects in one night, that’s insects that bother us, our crops and even our native plants! To me, the good certainly outweighs any “bad.” I garden for wildlife and our ecosystems, and bats are an important part of that.
Mt. Cuba Center: Why do bats need our help?
Sarah Bouboulis: I wouldn’t say bats need “our help” as much as they need us to better understand them and the roles they play. Education leads to conservation! Bat populations in our region are under significant pressure from many directions, including habitat loss and a fungal disease known as “white-nose syndrome.” Both of these have caused severe declines in certain bat species. Bats are also in trouble simply from lack of understanding by people about the potential dangers they may pose, and the ecosystem benefits they provide.
Mt. Cuba Center: How can you attract bats to your yard?
Sarah Bouboulis: This one is complicated. It depends on the species of bat we’re interested in attracting. But a few overarching ways to attract bats are 1. Plant/don’t remove native plants. 2. Don’t use insecticides on your plants, especially those that harbor larval flying insects (like moth caterpillars or beetle larvae) as these will turn into delicious bat food! 3. Provide a water source, all bats need a drink when they come out for the night!
Mt. Cuba Center: What are some things to keep in mind when planting for bats?
Sarah Bouboulis: Trees are some of the best ways to support bat populations in your area. Half of our bat species are forest dwellers. They use trees for roosting and native trees support larger caterpillar populations, which will provide ample flying food for bats in no time! Also, leave the leaf litter! Some bats may use the leaf litter to take cover in winter. Depending on their size, different bat species eat different sized insects, so “diversity” in plantings is really important to provide a diversity of insects! And above all, don’t use pesticides! Doing so can decimate the insects those bats rely on.
Mt. Cuba Center: Is there anything else people considering signing up for your class should know?
Sarah Bouboulis: We’ll go into much more detail on these topics in my class. I’ll give an overview of bats from around the world and hone in on our local bat species, all of which have unique life histories and habitat needs! I’ll cover bat boxes, habitat, population stresses, and ways you can support bats in your home garden! Come willing to learn and leave being an advocate for bats!
Register for Gardening with Bats in Mind on Wednesday, July 15 from 6 to 730 pm.