Bats need dark nights to be farm heroes

Bats can eat up to 3,000 midges a night and could be a farmer’s best friend if they do more to encourage these pest predators to roost on their land.

A new publication has highlighted the benefits of bats to farming landscapes and what actions farmers can take to support this protected species on their farms.

Bats are a source of free pest control – with a single bat capable of eating up to 3,000 midges in a night – and are vital for maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The Bats and Biodiversity report, written by Harry Fisher, of SAC Consulting (part of Scotland’s Rural College) for the Farm Advisory Service, highlights the importance of safeguarding bats, which are protected by law, and their roosts on farms.

It showcases the ten species of bats found on farms in Scotland, including the Common pipistrelle and Soprano pipistrelle bats which can be found in the cracks of buildings and trees, Brown long-eared bats which roost in roof spaces, and Noctule bats which can be seen flying high in the sky at dusk.

Less common bats include Leisler’s, Natterer’s and Whiskered bats, which are normally only found in the south of Scotland.

Each species requires a variety of roosts offering different conditions throughout the year, including a day roost to rest and shelter in during the summer, a warm maternity roost where females give birth and raise their young in early summer, and a cool, humid hibernation roost for the winter months.

Farmers can support bats on their land by reducing light pollution from steadings at night, installing bat boxes, planting trees across the farm, leaving ivy and shrubs on buildings, and creating habitat beneficial to bats such as ponds, hedgerows and species-rich grasslands.

Fisher said, “Seeing bats flutter around a specific area of your farm means it is providing vital resources for some of Scotland’s rarest species.

“Within an agricultural setting, bats can act as a natural control method for pest insects on both crops and livestock. While scouring the night sky for prey, a single bat can eat up to 3,000 midges in one night.

“Over the world, bats are utilised for their natural pest control services. In North America, through catching and killing adult insects and reducing larvae in crops, bats have been estimated to be worth more than £18 billion per year to crop protection. In Europe, bats are often encouraged by livestock farmers, as they predate on blood sucking insects that bother their cattle.”

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