The mosquito is one of the least-loved insects that inhabit our planet. If you’re tired of lighting citronella candles and covering yourself in DEET from head to toe just to hang out on your lawn, then consider putting your faith in a different winged creature—the bat.

Bats have never had the best rep—Dracula could be to blame—but these nocturnal mammals could be the unsung heroes of your household.

The Benefits of Bats

bat hanging from a treeWhen it comes to bats, forget what you’ve heard. Less than half of one percent of the North American bat population is infected with rabies at any one time.

And contrary to what you might have seen in the movies, bats are not blood-sucking attackers. Most North American breeds feed on insects or plant nectar. That’s right—they might just be the ultimate garden helper.

A single bat can eat over 600 bugs per hour, so attracting bats to your home could help you replace harsh, anti-pest chemicals with free, natural pest control. If your garden is being overrun by pests like stinkbugs, earworms, tomato hornworms, or cucumber beetles, put down the pesticides and put up a bat house.

How to Attract Bats and Keep Them There

three bat boxes attached to a tree trunkJust like people, bats are picky about their real estate. To build a good bat house, there are a few specific details to follow:

  • The material used should be a rough wood, such as cedar or plywood.
  • The bat house should stand between 10 and 20 feet in the air.
  • It should face south or east so it can absorb as much heat as possible during the day.
  • Try to locate the bat house near a water source and far away from any bright lights at night.
  • Place the house on your home, a pole, a tree, or a separate structure like a garage or shed—wherever you decide, make sure you don’t mind the area underneath being covered by guano.

Once you’ve attracted some bats, keeping them around shouldn’t be too difficult. Some North American bat species are pollinators, so planting night-blooming plants will not only add beauty to your garden but also keep the bats enticed.

Don’t let a little bad PR keep you from developing a two-way relationship with some of our best defenders. Consider attracting and housing bats so you can keep the real pests out.