Bats are fascinating creatures – and watching their acrobatic antics can be a real pleasure. Although often associated with Hallowe'en, you're more likely to see bats swooping over your garden during the summer months when airborne insects are in abundance.
There are several old wives tales surrounding bats. One of the most common is that they'll get caught in your hair – and at times the bats in our garden have swooped so close to our heads that it's easy to understand how this misconception came about.
However, it's unlikely that such a mishap will occur. Bats have a highly sophisticated navigation system – known as echolocation – that prevents a bat from colliding with any nearby object (such as a head) and enables it to accurately locate even the tiniest of insects, such as midges. And a single bat can eat as many as 3,000 insects in one night, so echolocation must work pretty well.
The old adage “as blind as a bat” would suggest that bats have poor eyesight, but in fact they can see almost as well as humans – if we had to hunt for food in the dark we might need echolocation too!
Bats are one of only three British mammals that truly hibernate – the other two being hedgehogs and dormice. There are 18 different species of bat in the UK, with 17 breeding in this country. The tiny common pipistrelle, which weighs just 5g – that's less than a £1 coin – is one of the most UK's most common bat species, and can be found in a wide range of habitats.
To attract bats to your garden, you need to provide them with a readily available food source. All species of British bats only eat insects, and you can encourage more insects to visit your plot by adding some insect-friendly, nectar-rich plants.