Most of us grow up with scary stories about bats that portray these mammals as evil creatures that fly in your hair and do bad deeds. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Bats like to be left alone, and perform miracles of insect control.
As a major predator of insects that fly at night—eating hundreds of mosquitoes an hour per bat–bats help maintain the balance of nature. By eating millions of rootworms in a summer, a bat colony protects farmlands from attacks of these destructive beetles. When they’re not eating insects, bats pollinate the plants in our gardens.
With housing development and the ongoing destruction of forests it’s harder for bats to find homes in the natural environment. Gardeners who put up bat houses help the bats that help them—it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Bat House Design
Design matters when it comes to bat houses. Research shows that bats prefer a three-quarter-inch roosting space, four-to-six inch landing area, and roosting compartments that are at least sixteen inches high by twelve inches wide. The more compartments, the higher the occupancy rate.
It’s critical not to use pressure treated wood or oil-based stains or paints on bat houses because bats are very sensitive to toxins.
Because bats like warmth and sun, the ideal bat house faces south or east. Houses should be at least fifteen feet above the ground to protect the bats from predators. It’s a plus if there’s a water source nearby so the bats don’t have to leave their young to find water.
Bats will occupy houses attached to buildings more readily than ones attached to poles (second choice) or trees (third choice). Experts say that if bats don’t move into a house by the end of the second summer it’s time to move the house to a better location.
Bat House: Build It or Buy It?
Many conservation organizations are working hard to preserve bat colonies. To encourage homeowners to put up bat houses, they provide great information about bat house design and building. If you decide to buy a bat house, bring the design specifications with you because some structures sold as bat houses are for the birds—literally. Bat houses are not the same as birdhouses, and bats are very particular about where they live.
These organizations also offer free and detailed bat house designs and construction information. Even people who have never used a saw before have successfully built bat houses.
Want to learn more about Bat Houses?
The following are excellent sites with all the information you need to buy or build a bat house. The more you understand about bats the better equipped you will be to add in their preservation.
Clean Air Gardening has an excellent selection of bat houses for you to choose from.
Here is an excellent article related to The Importance of Bat Houses.
If you’re going to Build a Bat House, check out this guide.
Garden for Wildlife: Build a Bat House – as seen through the eyes of the National Wildlife Federation.
Here are excellent plans for building a Single-chamber Bat House.
Anette the Gardener says
That’s an interesting angle, you have, on bats. I must admit that I too used to be a bit afraid of bats. But then just recently my husband called on me one evening. I went to the door where he was standing, and when I looked out I could see numerous bats that flew around in all directions, apparently eating a lot of insects.
BTW, I also read another article (http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/parenting&id=7539339) by Matt O’Donnell on his and his family’s experiences with building houses for bats. Apparently they haven’t had much success with the bats houses yet. But in the article he speculates on several potential solutions to the problem. I guess he could use the advice in your interesting and informative article too 🙂