Attracting Bats to your Property How you go about attracting bats to your property depends on which type of bats you want to attract.

It is not enough just to put up a bat house, relatively few species of bats will roost in bat houses and they are generally the commoner species that live on roofs. We do not recommend people put up bat houses unless a colony has to be excluded from a house roof for some reason.

Use your garden

Attracting bats to gardens is simple and does not need to involve bat boxes. Plant indigenous trees, shrubs, and ground covers, especially those that flower at night, attracting moths and other night-flying insects. Plant plenty of Strelitzia and bananas. Have a shallow pond or water feature with clear space around it for bats to scoop up water in their mouths as they fly across it.

If you have a mosquito problem then plant lots of banana and strelitzia plants and pipistrelle bats will soon arrive.

Do not use pesticides in your garden. Keep domestic cats indoors from just before dusk until about 9 pm.

Keep it natural

It is far better to plant indigenous plants, to leave dead hollow trees standing, leave dead leaves hanging down from palm trees to give roosting spots, and to have uncluttered open water in your garden to allow bats to scoop up water to drink as they fly across.

Call in the Fruit Bats

To attract fruit bats then plant figs, pawpaws, avocados, mangos litchis, amatungulu, and other fruiting trees and shrubs. To encourage fruit bats to roost, in a quiet, sheltered part of your garden plant 2 or 3 mature king palms or build a thatched Lapa for them.

It is obvious that to attract fruit bats one needs to plant non-citrus indigenous fruit trees, what many people do not realize is that fruit bats also eat a wide variety of leaves. Below is a list of trees that are known to feature in fruit bats’ diets

List of trees associated with Epomophorus wahlbergi in KwaZulu-Natal

Compiled by Colin Sapsford (UKZN), with additions by Bats KZN members

  • Annona senegalensis (Wild Custard-apple)
  • Bridelia micrantha(Mitzeeri)

  • Ekebergia capensis (Cape Ash)

  • Euclea natalensis (Hairy Guarri)

  • Eugenia capensis (Dune Myrtle)

  • Ficus spp. – esp. F. sur, F. lutea, F. trichopoda, F. natalensis  (Figs)

  • Halleria lucida (Tree-fuchsia)

  • Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild Plum)

  • Mimusops caffra (Coast Red-milkwood)

  • Podocarpus falcatus (Outeniqua Yellowwood)
  • Podocarpus latifolius (Real Yellowwood)
  • Rauvolfia caffra (Quinine-tree)
  • Sclerocarya birrea (Marula)
  • Sideroxylon inerme (White-milkwood)
  • Strelitzia nicolai (Coast Strelitzia)
  • Syzigium cordatum (Umdoni)
  • Tabernaemontana ventricosa(Forest Toad-tree)
  • Trichilia emetica (Natal Mahogany)
  • Voacanga thouarsii (Wild-frangipani)

Bat Houses

Remember, bat houses should only be used in cases where exclusions are needed. They are not recommended to attract bats as not many species will use the house. These houses should not be placed near habitat as they can attract more common species which may compete with rarer species in the area that roosts in more selective habitats.

This bat house can be made from a 635 x 1 270 mm piece of exterior plywood (front, back & roof) and one piece of 18 mm x 44 mm x 1 625 mm shutter plywood (spacers). A 63 mm x 18 mm x 610 mm board makes a roof. This bat house works especially well when mounted on buildings or in pairs back to back on a single pole, in which case a single roof can be built over both houses. It can hold 50 or more bats.

Staple heavy-duty plastic mesh to the front of each partition and inside the back, extending across the landing platform. It is very important to caulk all exterior joints to prevent heat loss and moisture leakage. Paint your finished bat house with two or three coats of exterior latex. Darker colours make be necessary for cooler southern temperate climates in Southern Africa, but medium colours are often better in warmer tropical and subtropical areas. Vents are not needed in the coolest locations.

Larger boxes can be made by adding extra chambers, with space allowed inside the top of the box for bats to move between chambers. Top spacer 44 mm x 610 mm2. Side Spacers (x2) 44 mm x 508 m3. Back 673 mm x 610 mm4. Lower front 127 mm x 6105. Vent 12 mm x 610 mm6. Upper front 419 mm x 610 mm.