Contrary to what you may think, bats don’t always live in caves. In fact, many call your backyard home, often roosting in tree cavities or under tree bark during the summer where they give birth and rear their young. Bat populations are disappearing all over the world due to habitat loss so a bat house is the perfect way for you to show your commitment to nature. In return, bats will eat thousands of insects that inhabit your backyard. It’s a win-win!
The Perfect House
Typical bat houses are made of wood. Look for a house with interior nylon mesh or grooves in the wood to allow bats a place to hang. A long landing area allows for easy entrance. Bats like tight and warm spaces (80-100 degrees in July when they have their young) so be sure to place in an area that receives lots of sunlight.
Where to Install
When deciding on a place to mount your bat house look for an area with lots of sun (at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight); at least 15 feet off the ground (to protect against predators); and ideally with a water source nearby (so the mother bat doesn’t have to leave her young for too long). Bat houses can be mounted on trees, poles or structures. If pole mounted, use a 40-galvanized steel pole with inside diameter of 2” or more or a 4” x 6” treated wooden post. If mounting on a structure, choose the East or South facing side for placement. Keep clear of doors or windows for peaceful nesting and to stay clear of bat droppings.
Winter is the best time to inspect your bat houses to be sure everything is in working order. Inspect the seams to be sure they are tight and no sunlight is able to enter the top. A flashlight works great for this. Check for any pests or old spider webs. Winter is a perfect time to clean the inside of the bat house as bats will abandon the house if overtaken by bees or wasps. Modern bat houses are thankfully self-cleaning. Droppings accumulate on the ground directly under the bat house. This material naturally biodegrades and there is not much need to remove it.
Did You Know?
Save yourself the bug spray! According to Bat Conservation International, one little brown bat can eat 60 medium-sized moths or over 1000 mosquito-sized insects in one night! To locate their prey, most insect-eating bats use a system called echolocation. This super sense is similar to sonar used in ships. The bat emits a high frequency sound that bounces off of objects in their environment. They can then determine the location and size of prey by listening to the sound echo that returns to them.
Bats are the only mammal capable of true flight. The Brown Bat, the most common bat in America, is very small with an overall size from 2.5” to 4.” The span of their wings when outstretched can be up to 11.”