May 4, 2015
Mosquitoes are out in force this spring. The scary thing to mosquitoes in these parts this year is the potential to be carrying diseases such as West Nile Virus or Chikungunya. We do help provide relief to our customers with our mosquito treatments. However, you might want to try out a natural method for helping to get rid of mosquitoes this year. Why not build a bat house and allow some bats to help reduce the population of mosquitoes on your property?
Think about it. Check out this from the National Wildlife Federation:
Building a Bat House
I love bats because mosquitoes LOVE to bite me. Pesticides can be harmful to mosquitoes’ predators as well as mosquitoes. According to Bat Conservation International, one little brown bat can eat 60 medium-sized moths or over 1000 mosquito-sized insects in one night!
Bats are also interesting because:
- In many ecosystems, they play a key role in pollinating plants.
- There are more than 1,300 species of bats in the world!
- Some bats use echolocation, or high pitched chirps which bounce off objects in front of them, to find their way in the dark.
Before I share my bat house building experience, let me say that I am no carpenter. This was my first time using a circular saw. Hopefully this can help even the least handy person build a bat house.
Why Build a Bat House?
You might be surprised: bats don’t always live in caves. Some bats spend winter months in caves, but most bats spend summers in trees, under bridges or in old buildings, where they give birth and rear young.
Your goal is to make a bat house that mimics the space between bark and a tree trunk. That would be the bats’ ideal nursery. That’s why the space inside a bat house is very narrow, unlike a bird house which would house a nest. Bats like tight spaces. They also need it nice and warm for the babies. That’s why we paint the box a dark color in most climates and why we caulk the sides to keep the heat in. Also, you’ll be using a saw to rough up inside the box. That makes it more like tree bark and easier for the bats to climb up.
You might wonder why you need to build a bat house. Why can’t the bats just find a nice tree? That is the challenge for many bat species as forests are cleared. Ideally they would live in a natural home but we build bat houses to help those who can’t find space in a forest.
A bat house is also is a great way to provide cover for wildlife, as well as a place for wildlife to raise young–two components of becoming a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat site.
How to Build a Bat House
First I printed the Small Economy Bat House plan (pdf) from Bat Conservation International’s website. (They also have a Bat House Builder’s Handbook available for free in a digital version on their bat house pages.) The big surprise was that this bat house ended up being bigger than I expected: two feet wide and almost three feet tall! According to their website, a successful bat house can be smaller (14 inches wide instead of 24 inches wide), but this one was designed to easily use up a 2 foot by 4 foot piece of plywood with fewer cuts.
That was not how I had pictured a bat house. Have you ever seen bat houses for sale that are smaller or shaped like a bird house? I have. That just means those houses were made by people less acquainted with bat needs.
I read over the plan and I found that I needed a location with:
- lots of sun
- at least 15 feet off the ground (to protect against predators); and
- ideally a water source nearby (so the mother bat doesn’t have to leave her young for too long).
Interestingly, bats are less attracted to bat houses mounted on trees. There’s a few reasons for this:
- It’s too easy for predators to get bats as they exit
- The branches causing obstructions to exiting bats which drop down then up into flight
- It’s too shady from branches above.
Bat houses mounted on buildings retain heat better and are less accessible to predators. You can put them on a pole though. Luckily my townhouse is three stories high and has a sunny side. It’s also near a stream. So I felt I probably had a good site.
You might not be up for the ‘do it yourself’ project of getting a bat house together. That is fine, you can buy a bat house from just about anywhere via the web.