Celebrate Bats & Owls as October recognizes both cool species!
There couldn’t be a more fitting time of year to think about bats! The great thing is that bat houses and owl boxes help both species thrive, and they’ll take you up on cozy digs if offered in suitable habitat.
Beneficial to have around your property for rodent and insect control, bats and owls could use a helping hand as their natural habitats continue to shrink.
If you’ve ever climbed up in the attic to find a bat or two clinging to the vent screen… it can be a bit unnerving! But the flying mammals are fairly harmless and sadly, quite misunderstood. Popular at Halloween for their cryptic character, the Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC) has been established to educate and inspire people to save bats.
Installing a bat house is advantageous as these not-so mysterious creatures consume thousands of insects nightly, not to mention that as pollinators, bats help gardens thrive. Cool factoid: Being the sole pollinator of the agave plant, if it weren’t for bats there would be no tequila! Bat boxes are available from single- to 5-chambers, in durable cedar or recycled plastic.
WHHHOOOOO would’ve thunk it?
Owls seize every opportunity to find shelter and food sources wherever possible. When it comes to habitat, owls are versatile as they reside in wooded areas (most common), rain forests, grasslands, and open prairie. As long as owls are able to stake claim to their own territory and hide from predators during the day, they are survivors.
The common misunderstanding is that owls live in tree-tops but the reality is, they live in tree trunks, abandoned structures and barn rafters. Some live in shrubs and bushes where you would never think to look for them. Often, these birds are not found high off the ground as many people believe. Owls will use a suitable hollowed out log or opening in a tree for nesting, bud sadly dead trees and snags are often discarded by land owners.
Truth be told is that owls need not be perched up high to find their prey. They’ll hunt right from their nest location or owl house instead of using a perch like most birds. Some owl species like the Great Horned- will not start a new nest, instead claiming nests of other raptors or Common Ravens that have been left behind. Barn Owls are known to roost year-round in their houses, so clean-out is best during non-breeding months in January/February.
Because owls are an isolating and territorial species, it’s believed that habitat loss could become critical for future survival. Even though they’re highly adaptable, owls like other wildlife are limited in what they can do without their natural habitat.
Interested in learning more to assist these majestic raptors? Install a species-specific owl house to offer cozy habitat for nesting and roosting.
“I am currently turning my weedy flower garden into a bird station with flowers for pollinators! (no more weeds!) I am very excited about my project and will have it completed by next Spring. So I am having fun perusing your website and procuring items to begin installation after Winter. For now, I’m preparing soil and tweaking my plans. Thanks for your wonderful shop! ” ~Nancy
The note above was recently sent in by a customer and friend… it’s simply music to our ears! Consider adding a bee or butterfly feeder to help all pollinators and to ease the great monarch migration in fall.
Fall plantings beyond your traditional mum varieties will extend your garden’s blooming season and even better yet, continue to attract butterflies! By choosing some of these beautiful, fall blooming plans in your garden, you’ll enjoy an abundance of blooms and continue to attract butterflies.
Even though we see a plethora of butterflies in spring and summer months surrounding our flowers, there are still many that have a need for nectar in the fall. Some varieties have migration paths as long as thousands of miles, so good nectar sources are needed along the way. Many butterflies are not migratory and continue searching for nourishment locally. Try your hand at some of these fall plantings for an additional bonus of butterflies to your garden!
Think red, yellow, pink, purple and other bright colors as you design your garden’s artistic palette of blooms for fall. Many flowers attract butterflies and are suitable for almost any garden. Consider plants that can withstand the season’s first or second frost. Some recommended plantings are:
- Sedums: Easy to grow plants in gravelly soil in full sun with decent drainage.
Pink and Purple Asters: When sheared in the spring can produce a mound of pleasing, compact loads of daisy-like blooms
- Salvia: Continue to bloom through the first hard frost come in many varieties and produce tubular blossoms to attract swallowtails, fritillaries, and other butterflies
- Latana: A favorite of butterflies that blooms in the summer until a hard, killing frost.
- Penta: A true love of the butterfly! Colors are typically bright red and work well in beds, borders, or in pots on a patio
- Bluebears: Drought-tolerant for those of you living in dryer regions. Produces clusters of deep-blue flowers and typically grows 3 to 4 feet tall.
Remember, these are just a few varieties of fall bloomers to get you started! Consider fall planting choices for beauty-enhancing blooms and the additional benefit of nourishment for our butterfly friends!
- Sedums: Easy to grow plants in gravelly soil in full sun with decent drainage.
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky… remember the theme song? Maybe old enough like us to mix them up with the family residing at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
It was Grandpa from the Munster’s who had the pet bat! Only showing him in flight, I don’t recall ever seeing his bat house, can you remember his name? Regardless, both of those theme songs keep replaying in the brain.
On a more serious note, it’s believed that about 44% of bees have perished this year from pesticide poisoning, which is really scary! Like the birds & bees, bats are also major pollinators of tropical plants and fruit, they’re considered the night shift pollinators.
Thankfully, more folks are tuning into the needs of these friendly flying mammals with fur. Offering bat houses for roosting actually helps promote pollination. Aside from the thousand of insects consumed nightly, pollination is a huge draw. Especially for the agave plant, because without it- there would be no tequila!
Materials vary from recycled plastic and cedar to aged barn wood for a more rustic appeal. There’s even several plans available online to build your own.
It may prove difficult at first to attract them, residing near a pond or lake greatly increase chances of occupancy. Recommended height is 12 to 15 feet, with a clear pathway to entry.
Facing SE or SW allows the bat house to receive maximum sun exposure for retained heat. Structures of brick, stone or wood are ideal mounting surfaces as they also retain heat. Metal- not so much. A pole may be easiest as the shelter can be attached while still on the ground, and then erected with bat house already secured.
Either way, bat houses are definitely something worth looking into. With holiday approaching they’d make an excellent gift for the nature-lover on your list.
Migratory winged ones are on the move!
It’s an awesome time of year to catch the action not only of feathered friends- but butterflies too!
Although we’ve nary seen a monarch this year (so very sad) a few other butterfly species have been prevalent. Several Swallowtails, Sulphurs and Viceroys to name a few. And even though we have a great selection on our website… they’re not coming to any fancy butterfly feeders.
A few alternative options to actual butterfly feeders:
•Discarded fruit- provided it’s not too far gone
•Nectar producing flowers- preferably native
These things absolutely work to entice the flying jewels! Leaf misters offer a gentle spray which butterflies adore, you can see them dance and flit through the fine mist. In fact, it’s almost mesmerizing! Their own personal spa, leaf misters also have gardens growing lush. Use these year after year, ours are going on their 10th season!
Discarded fruit is a no-brainer; from oranges, to melons, pears, apples and bananas, place fruit on a deck rail, plate, or anywhere near flowers where you’ve seen the least bit of butterfly activity.
And the flowers? We prefer native perennials. Again, you’ll get year after year of blooms and activity. Lantana is is one of the more common plants in the southeast, in fact it’s almost invasive! Butterfly or milk weed is also a popular host plant. Pollination Trifecta in this video with hummingbird, bees and butterflies on one plant!
Plan next spring with a few vegetables specifically for butterfly host plants; dill, fennel and parsley are ideal plants to host black swallowtails, and milkweed is a must for monarch caterpillars!
Another easy DIY is creating a waterless pond for butterflies to warm in the sun. Simply place heat-aborbing rocks (so they’re flat) in a sunny spot, add sand and salt and keep moist. You may wish to line the area first with plastic to keep salt out of soil. Sort of a crude version of the popular butterfly puddlers.
And one last tip on feeding butterflies: They do not drink from an open water source. When using butterfly feeders like this staked one below, place a sponge in the center to soak up nectar. This acts as a wick where butterflies draw nectar like they do in nature from flowers.
Ok, maybe we’re wrong, the really really last tip: Stop using chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. Natural is the new landscape, manicured, pristine lawns and gardens are a thing of the past. Do it for butterflies, do it for all pollinators, most of all… do it for the human race!
Buzz about the Monarch’s dwindling population is more than justified. You may have heard about it, but if not check this fact: Since the mid-90’s their decline has reached 90% from the 20-year average. What’s this mean in terms of real numbers? Swap monarchs for people for a second, every person in the US would be gone except for those living in just two states!
One of the biggest reasons for their decline is believed to be the disappearance of milkweed- the Monarch caterpillar’s only food source, and also the only plant on which Monarchs will lay their eggs. To name a few other culprits; urban sprawl, extreme weather, new farming practices and illegal logging in the butterflies’ winter habitat in Mexico.
Offering suitable habitat and butterfly feeders really does help the local Monarch population. Don’t bother with houses… they don’t use them! Both can be fantastic and unique garden accents – with feeders being much more useful. Butterflies also adore leaf misters, set one up near lantana or any other nectar-producing plant and you’re bound to see some winged action!
The butterfly feeders above are handmade, blown glass flowers on a 36-inch stake. They’re versatile for nectar or fruit, and for songbirds too. The hanging butterfly feeder below has been tested and approved by butterfly experts. A special combination of wicks and tubes mimic real flower blossoms, the design and color attracts butterflies and the nectar reservoir size is ideal to minimize spoilage.
This season, Swallowtails have been spotted in our butterfly habitat, but no Monarchs yet 🙁 Still a few months for their presence in the southeast… we’ll continue to feed and keep watch for the winged wonders!