There are no Bats in our Belfry

Well actually I don’t know if there are. I know that there are some in the village because on a summer’s evening, when insects are flying, you can see them dodging up and down the row of houses that we look out on. Now does the bat deserve the reputation of being a blood sucking bit part player in horror films or are they just lovable flying things? There are some weird creatures in this world but the bat must rank up among the best off them.

When I started writing this we were approaching Halloween or Allhalloween or All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve and the poor old bat is very much figure of the ‘trick or treating’ that our youngsters have adopted from across the Atlantic. It used to gall me a little that we have taken so much from the USA but now, provided we don’t take their chemically washed chicken or hormone injected beef, it is one of the more acceptable practices that we have stolen. Perhaps because we no longer have the things like ‘bob a job’ or ‘knock down ginger’ children need other activities to get their teeth into. Using their imagination and crafting skills to produce costumes to ‘scare the neighbours’ is much better than the child slavery that was ‘bob a job’. If you have ever had the fun of helping to creosote a fence when you are 13 years old then you will know what I mean. Not good when you get creosote on your woggle as it is not easy to get off.

I found this on the internet.

“Bats have been on Earth for more than 50 million years. With more than 1,400 species, they are the second largest order of mammals, and are widely dispersed across six continents. Globally, bats provide vital ecosystem services in the form of insect pest consumption, plant pollination, and seed dispersal, making them essential to the health of global ecosystems.

Today, bats are under unprecedented threat from widespread habitat destruction, hunting, accelerated climate change, invasive species, and other stresses. Without concerted international action, their populations will continue to fall, driving many species to extinction.”

So why have I and many others developed, maybe not a loathing, but certainly a dislike for the mamal? If you look at the medical reasons for keeping a good distance from the creature then you could be excused for looking around for a ‘bat exterminator’ because the ‘carried’ diseases are quite manifold and include Rabies and Ebola. There is good news for us on this island because there are no known zoonotic dieseases in UK bats. We can also forget about bats being the source of the COVID-19 Coronavirus because although it is thought to have its origins with bats, who have a bit of inbuilt immunity to respiratory ailments, it would be an historic feature and would have needed to be ‘passed’ via other animals before it ended up with humans. So provided we keep them at distance, and that is probably all they want, they will do what they do best, pest disposal, pollination and seed distribution.

Unfortunately like many ancient species they have had to adapt to this ever changing world and like many others in this last few hundred years they have not been able to cope with the changes that the we have given them to adapt to. As can be seen above the destruction of their habitats is one of the prime reasons for the reduction in their numbers. There are 18 species of Bat in the UK and one the Greater Mouse Eared was almost lost but it has been sighted in a number of locations across the UK, so yes they are under threat and it is about time we put our unfounded dislikes to one side and started to support them in their futures. What can we do?

You can attract bats into your garden by growing stongly-scented flowering plants , such as honeysuckle, sweet briar and white jasmine. These will attract insects, which in turn attract bats. You can also put up bat boxes to provide homes for the little creatures. Something else from the internet.

“Bat boxes are more likely to be used if they are located where bats are known to feed. Ideally, several boxes should be put up facing in different directions on sunny aspects to provide a range of warm conditions. Boxes should be put as high as possible to try and avoid predation from cats on the ground or nearby structures. On buildings, boxes should be placed as close to the eaves as possible. Bats use dark tree lines or hedgerows for navigation, so putting boxes near these features could help bats find the box.

In summary, locate boxes:

  • Where bats are known to feed and navigate (close to hedges and tree lines);
  • Ideally at least 4m above the ground (where safe installation is possible);
  • Away from artificial light sources (to protect them from predation); and
  • Sheltered from strong winds and exposed to the sun for part of the day (usually south, south-east or south-west).

Bats need time to find and explore new homes, and it may be several months or even years before boxes have residents – be patient! Once bats find a place they want to live they can return over and over again. Droppings on the landing area, urine stains around the lower parts of the box and chittering noises from inside on warm afternoons and evenings are signs of occupation.

And lastly, bats are vulnerable to disturbance and are protected under UK law. Boxes must only be opened by a licensed bat worker. Did not know that you got such people known as licenced bat workers.