All UK bat species eat insects, so they look for places with lots of insects to hunt! Some bats prefer waterways, others prefer woods or grassland. Habitat choice can be species-specific and some bats will journey further to seek the habitat they prefer.
Waterways and ponds provide bats with the water to rehydrate – and they also attract midges and other flying insects, which congregate in their thousands and provide a ready feast for bats! Daubenton’s bats are often seen skimming over the top of the water to feed on a variety of water insects and pipistrelles often feed over the water of a river or pond near their roost.
Trees, woodlands and their associated shrubbery attract a wide variety of insects for bats to prey on. The elusive Bechstein’s bat is one of our rarest species, living in woodland areas in parts of southern England and south east Wales. They roost and forage in suitable woodlands of 25 to 50 hectares or more in size, and very rarely venture further afield.
Grasslands and farmlands can also provide good hunting for bats. Dr Roger Ransome has investigated one surprising connection between horseshoe bats and alpaca farms! Some bats come out of hibernation for brief periods in winter to forage for food – but where do they find insects? Dr Ransome’s research in Gloucestershire suggests that alpaca dung dropped in the colder months attracts hungry dung beetles – and dung beetles attract hungry horseshoe bats!
In urban environments, bats often roost in buildings, but they forage in green spaces like gardens, allotments, parks and ponds. You can help encourage bats by planting flowers that attract insects for bats to feed on. You could also do a Sunset Survey to begin finding out more about bats and their behaviour in your neighbourhood.