Head into your garden at dusk and you might be lucky enough to see a bat or two flitting about on the hunt for insects. There are 18 species of bat in the UK, from the tiny pipistrelle to the chunky noctule. Here are the most likely bats you'll spot from your garden and how to help them out with a few biodiversity-boosting gardening tips.

Brown long-eared bat

Scientific name: Plecotus auritus

Wingspan: 23-28cm

Diet: moths, earwigs, flies, spiders and beetles

Predators: birds of prey and domestic cats

Roosts: trees, attics and old buildings

Description

Medium-sized bat about 8cm in length including ears (which are almost as long as body). Light grey-brown fur and a pale underside. They can swoop very low to the ground and might even land to eat large prey.

Spotting tips

The best time to see a brown long-eared bat is after sunset, when they leave their roosts to hunt. They usually follow linear features and tend to fly more slowly than other bat species.

Common pipistrelle bat

Scientific name: Pipistrellus pipistrellus

Wingspan: up to 20cm

Habitat: woodland, farmland, grassland, urban areas

Diet: invertebrates

Predators: birds of prey and domestic cats

Roosts: buildings, tree holes, often in small groups

Description

Small with brown fur and black wings and face. It weighs no more than a pound coin.

Spotting tips

It's the second most numerous bat species in the UK after the soprano pipistrelle, so you're likely to see it from your garden. It also frequents rivers, ponds, lakes and ditches using woodland edges to navigate.

Daubenton's bat

Scientific name: Myotis daubentonii

Wingspan: 24-27cm

Habitat: woodland and grassland close to fresh water

Diet: invertebrates

Predators: birds of prey and domestic cats

Roosts: close to water, under bridges, inside mines and caves or tree holes

Description

Brown fur, black wings and a pink face. Their undersides are a pale, silvery colour. They have a wingspan of around 25cm.

Spotting tips

Can be spotted in woodland and grassland where there's fresh water nearby for hunting.  If you're close to a body of water, watch at dusk and you may see them swooping down in search of prey.

Noctule bat

Scientific name: Nyctalus noctula

Wingspan: 32-40cm

Habitat: woodland

Diet: beetles, midges, moths, winged ants

Predators: hawks, owls

Roosts: rot and woodpecker holes in trees

Appearance

Britain's largest bat, the noctule has golden-brown fur with a darker brown face and wings. Its small, rounded ears are dark brown.

Spotting tips

They are tree dwellers, so you've a better chance of spotting them if you're close to woodland, just before dark. They are high flyers, flying above the tree canopy, so keep your eyes to the sky. They produce loud, high-pitched chirping calls that can be heard by some adults and children.

Serotine bat

Scientific name: Eptesicus serotinus

Wingspan: 32-38cm

Habitat: woodland, hedgerows, parkland, pastures

Diet: flies, moths, beetles

Predators: birds of prey

Roosts: buildings, old churches

Appearance

Another large UK bat, serotines have dark brown fur and a dark brown or black face, wings and ears. The underside is a paler yellow-brown and the ears are large and pointed.

Spotting tips

Less common species of southern England and Wales. They are one of the first bats to take to the wing as night begins to fall. Listen for the squeaking sound it makes just before emerging at dusk to hunt. They fly at a height of around 10m around tree tops and lamp posts searching for prey.

Soprano pipistrelle bat

Scientific name: Pipistrellus pygmaeus

Wingspan: 19-23cm

Habitat: woodland, parks and gardens

Diet: flies, moths, midges, mosquitos

Predators: birds of prey and domestic cats

Origin: native

Roosts: buildings, tree holes

Appearance

Small bat with brown fur, black wings and a black face. Almost identical to common pipistrelle, but the soprano is slightly smaller.

Spotting tips

Keep an eye out for this species near woodland and urban parks and gardens, especially if close to water where they like to hunt. As with all bats, the best chance of seeing them is around sunset.

Explore these bats in depth

How to attract bats to your garden

The loss of old buildings, woodland and ancient trees have led to a decline in their habitat. And because they rely on woods and hedgerows to navigate, bats are often left lost and disorientated when landscapes are flattened for development or agriculture.

Bats need our help, and if you've got a garden there are simple steps you can take to support them. From attracting insects to providing roosting spots and navigational aids, here's our advice on how to make your garden bat-friendly.

Gardening tips

  • Grow plants that flower early and late in the season to support as many insects as you possibly can.
  • Plant evening-scented flowers such as honeysuckle to attract night-flying insects like moths - a favorite food of bats.
  • Avoid showy, double petaled cultivars. They don't produce much nectar.
  • Ensure a variety of colours and flower shapes to suit different invertebrates.
  • Plant trees and hedges to provide navigation aids and spots for roosting.
  • Mature shrubs can also be good roosts.
  • Consider creating a pond. Even small ponds boost insect biodiversity for species such as hoverflies, mosquitoes and midges.
  • Leave untidy areas such piles of compost and log piles to encourage insects.
  • Avoid pesticides.
  • Install bat boxes on mature trees or the sides of buildings. There are instructions for building your own bat boxes from the Bat Conservation Trust.

Plant trees

Bats and trees go together. From their food source, to navigation and shelter, bats have evolved to rely on trees and they use different parts depending on the temperature and season. They use features like rot holes, crevices, loose bark and even the canopy for roosting and hibernation.

If you have space, plant a tree or two in your garden. Oak, beech and ash are really useful to bats, but any native tree has potential for a roost – especially as it develops cavities, woodpecker holes, loose bark, cracks, splits and a covering of ivy.

Privet hawk-moth on wood close-up

Create a wildlife haven in your garden

Trees support an abundance of insect life - the food source for bats.

Buy trees

More on bats and how to attract them to your garden