Although flying foxes (or fruit bats) are a wonderful and surprisingly common sight in a suburban back garden, they can be a nuisance if you grow fruit trees. The creatures feed on nectar and fruit in the wild and are attracted to gardens where such food is readily available, wreaking havoc on your carefully cultivated crop.
So, what can you do to protect your fruit trees from night raids by flying foxes?
Before you begin
The first important thing to note is that flying foxes are a native Australian species and are therefore protected by law. It's illegal to kill or trap them. If you find a flying fox in your garden that's been injured or appears sick, don't attempt to handle it. The creatures can carry rabies and could bite you if frightened. Call your local pest control services contractor who will come rescue the animal safely and humanely. They will take the flying fox to a wildlife rescue centre where it can hopefully be treated and released back into the wild.
Keeping flying foxes out of your fruit trees
The most effective way of keeping flying foxes away from your fruit crop is by protecting it with netting. However, flying foxes are fragile creatures, and the wrong type of netting can cause serious injuries if they become entangled in it. Your local garden centre will stock different types of fruit netting. Make sure that you ask specifically for wildlife-friendly netting. The mesh should be less than 40mm wide to be safe.
If your trees grow clusters of fruit, you can protect it by using special exclusion bags. These are specially designed to fit over the fruit, keeping it safe from scrumping flying foxes. Exclusion bags can be bought online if your local garden centre doesn't stock them.
Some fruit trees are covered in small fruits meaning that you'd need to net the whole tree to keep the crop safe. Netting designed to protect trees from hail is perfect for this job as it has a very small weave that's also rigid. This design prevents the holes from stretching and becoming a potential trap for flying foxes. Make sure you purchase a sufficient quantity of netting to completely cover the tree and at least one third of the trunk. If you're in any doubt which type of netting to use, ask your local pest control service company or wildlife rescue centre for advice.
When you've selected suitable netting, simply throw it over the whole tree and tie it off firmly around the tree trunk so that the flying foxes can't crawl underneath the netting and climb into the tree to feast on the fruit.
Flying foxes are a beautiful and increasingly threatened native Australian species. Protect both your fruit and the flying foxes by using the correct netting. For further advice, contact your local pest control services contractor, or wildlife rescue group.