Bats and their habitats
It's National Biodiversity Week and Bat Walks are among events planned around the country. Bats and their Habitats is one of a Countryside Management series of leaflets published by Teagasc. Here we share some of the interesting facts about Bats like: Bats only have a single baby, once a year
Irish Bat facts
- Bats are small furry mammals and like all mammals, they suckle their young.
- Bats only have a single baby, giving birth once a year.
- Bats are not blind. At night they use a sonar called echolocation to find food and avoid objects. They do not fly into your hair.
- Bats do not make nests but find small crevices or gaps to roost in.
- Bats are not harmful, but very beneficial. A bat can consume up to 3,000 midges in one night, reducing the need for pesticides.
- There are 10 bat species in Ireland, all of which are protected. Bats have declined in recent years because of a decline in insects and loss of roosting sites .
Increasing Bat Habitats on Farms
Farmland provides important habitat for feeding and roosting bats.
Bats fly along linear features, avoiding open spaces. Hedgerows and treelines are essential in providing connectivity in the landscape.
Provide habitats for insect prey for bats:
- Retain hedgerows, treelines and wooded areas.
- Plant native trees and shrubs, connecting existing hedgerows.
- Plant night-scented plants such as honeysuckle to attract insects.
- Retain wetland areas or create new ones.
- Avoid using pesticides.
Provide habitats as bat roosts:
- Allow bats access to potential roosting sites in outbuildings.
- Retain old mature trees and trees with dead wood and split limbs.
- Leave deadwood in-situ.
- Retain crevices in stone buildings as potential roosts – 20mm gaps suffice.
Daubenton’s bat (Photo: F. Greenway)
Bats like to roost in trees with naturally occurring holes. Bat boxes provide alternative roosts. They tend to use them from April to October. Bat boxes range from traditional wooden boxes to woodcrete (mixture of sawdust, concrete and clay) boxes. A basic bat box is constructed from untreated rough sawn timber. Wood preservatives may harm bats; however mammal-friendly preservatives are available. Treated wooden boxes should be fully dried before erection. Schwegler woodcrete boxes which come in various designs have excellent thermal insulation properties with less fluctuation of internal temperature conditions providing a more suitable environment for roosting bats. They also last longer than wooden boxes. Wooden boxes are simple to make while Schwegler woodcrete boxes can be purchased from. www.alanaecology.com and www.jacobijayne.com
Where to Site Bat Boxes
- Erect on trees or buildings with a south-facing aspect
- Choose trees with few low branches so bats can easily fly in and out.
- Locate at least 4 metres above ground away from predators and vandals.
- Hang from tree branches near the trunk using wire loop or “tree friendly” aluminum nails. • Place where they will get sunlight but little wind.
- Site away from outdoor lights.
- Wooden boxes are subject to fluctuating temperatures, so site 3 boxes around the tree trunk facing different directions (except west) to provide choice of environment.
Conservation of bats
Bats are a protected species. Under the Wildlife Act 1976 (2000) it is an offence to intentionally kill, disturb, handle, sell or offer for sale a bat without a licence. Contact your local National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation officer or Bat Conservation Ireland 046 9242882, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.batconservationireland.org
Listen to Éanna Ní Lamhna talk about bats and their habitats in the Environment Edge podcast
This National Biodiversity Week Teagasc and DAFM are running a series of nationwide walks on Forest recreation. Each walk is in the evening and will commence at 7pm. You can register for one of the four remaining walks in Laois, Roscommon, Sligo and Tipperary and get further details of each walk at www.teagasc.ie/forests4recreation
You might also like to read Growing Wild - dandelion and greater stitchwort
Have you heard about our recently launched Photo Competition - Biodiversity on Equine Farms ?
Also on World Bee Day - Friday 20th May at 9.30am The Signpost Series Webinar will focus on biodiversity on farmland.
The webinar will feature guest speaker Dr Catherine Keena, Countryside Management Specialist, Teagasc. Register for the webinar below.
Keep up to date with Teagasc Daily for lots more interesting articles on all aspects of Teagasc Advisory, Research and Education/Training.