Often underrecognized for their contributions to our environment, bats play a pivotal role in keeping insect populations under control while also providing fertilization and pollination services.
Emerging from their roosts at dusk, a single insectivorous bat can consume thousands of insects per night, reducing pest populations around gardens, agricultural lands, wetlands, forests, and your neighborhood retention pond. These nocturnal creatures control insects that spread mosquito-borne diseases such as zika and prevent unquantifiable amounts of damage to our food crops. Fortunately for us, more bat species and a greater population abundance are located in northern Florida than the southern part of the state.
Bats are responsible for pollinating more than 300 species of fruit-producing plants, along with many other night-blooming perennials. While most flower-visiting bats are found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands, some bat-pollinated plants that can be grown in our area of northeast Florida include bananas, peaches, figs, yucca, guava, evening primrose, goldenrod, datura, and night-blooming jessamine.
Characteristics of bat-attracting plants include:
- Open at night
- Pale or white nocturnal flowers
- Strong fermented, musty, or fruit-like fragrance
- Large bell-shaped blooms of 1-4 inches (bell-shaped flowers enable bats to use echolocation to find their nectar source!)
Creating a native wildlife habitat garden will also serve to attract insects for the bats to feast upon.
While flying around at night, bats gift our gardens with nutrient-rich guano, which is especially rich in nitrogen and also serves as a soil conditioner. If you are lucky enough to have an occupied bat house beneath which guano collects, it can be used in the garden fresh or dried.