Why House Bats?

Bats have long been maligned by humans -- a taboo, a creature to be shunned.  These little furry animals that fly seemed to be half-bird, half-mammal, and looked ugly.

But today they are being given their proper recognition as valuable to mankind in the ecological system.  Many plants, such as bananas and the endangered saguaro cactus, are dependent upon bats for pollination because they bloom at night.  Bats are also responsible for 95% of the reforestation of the tropical rain forests through their dispersal of seeds. 

Their immediate appeal to most people is their enormous capacity for consuming insects. A nocturnal animal, the bat eats when the insects are out, in contrast to birds, which eat during the day. Some bat species consume half their weight in a night -- as many as 600 or more gnat-sized insects an hour!

A single little brown bat or Myotis lucifugas or the big brown bat or Eptesicus fuscus, some of the most abundant and widespread bats in North America, can eat 3,000 to 7,000 mosquitoes each night, and a bat can live to be 20 years old. That's a pretty effective insecticide, especially when you consider that it doesn't poison other creatures or make holes in the ozone layer!

Truth About Bats

Bats are misunderstood creatures that are generally quite harmless to people. They do not become tangled in your hair, nor do they attack humans. Contrary to misconceptions, disease transmission from bats to people is easily avoided. Never handle bats and the odds of being harmed will be extremely remote.

In more than four decades, public health records indicate that only 16 people in the United States and Canada have died of bat-borne diseases... Placed in perspective, this means that the odds of anyone dying of a disease from a bat are much less than one in a million.  In contrast, in the United States alone more than 10 people die annually from dog attacks, not to mention dog- and cat-transmitted diseases. - Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle, America's Neighborhood Bats, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1988. In contrast, several children in a million are likely to die each year from encephalitis contracted through a mosquito bite.

In the Orient these gentle animals are symbols of good luck, long life and happiness.  They are meticulous in their grooming, spending a fair part of the day and night combing and grooming their fur.

When bats fly, they navigate by means of an sophisticated echolocation system.  The bat sends out signals of sound energy, which are reflected back, giving it the location of an object as well as its texture and other characteristics.  They can avoid a single human hair with extreme accuracy, even in total darkness, giving lie to the myth that bats are blind.

Bat Housing Crunch

Bats are feeling the housing crunch as much as people, with their favorite old hollow trees, barns, and old houses disappearing.  For this reason many bats are choosing bat houses as permanent roosting sites.

In order for bat houses to be successful they need to meet specific criteria, such as, narrow crevices at the bottom for bats to enter and screened or rough surfaces inside for them to hold onto. A bat house should be hung at least 10 to 15 feet above the ground, sheltered from the wind, and unobstructed by obstacles to flying, such as power lines and tree branches. Bat houses located near a source of water, especially a marsh, lake or stream, are most likely to attract bats, as this habitat attracts insects and provides a plentiful food supply for the bats. To keep the interior very warm, place the house on the side of a building or tree which receives several hours of morning or afternoon sun 100-110 degrees F is required by nursery colonies. If you are located in a cooler climate you may want to add tar paper or dark colored shingles to the bat house roof to help warm the house. If you are located in a warmer climate the bat house can be painted a beige or tan color using latex pain, or mounted as is. The pine wood will weather nicely to an attractive silver gray color which blends well with outdoor environments.

During winter months bats living in Canada and the northern two-thirds of the US migrate south or to nearby caves for a period of hibernation, as most bat species cannot survive subfreezing temperatures.

Conservation

Bats are in need of protection if they are to survive.  They have proven themselves as valuable members of our ecosystem, and we must increase the awareness of people who have the ability to protect or to destroy these little creatures. 

Bats are declining, world-wide, at an alarming rate, due to human misunderstanding.  They have typically only one offspring per year, making their comeback slow and in need of our help.

      Bat Houses

These bat houses are handcrafted of select, kiln-dried eastern white pine for durability, attractiveness, and insulation qualities.  The walls are thick to keep the interior warm. They are rough-sawn to provide a surface for the bats to hang onto. 

Inside are several partitions, because bats like narrow spaces, and this allows more surface room for roosting bats. The houses are open at the bottom to eliminate the need for cleaning, and to prevent birds from nesting in the house.

Frequently Asked Questions


BATS and BAT HOUSES

Frequently Asked Questions






Do bats transmit the West Nile Virus?

According to Bat Conservation International, bats are dead-end hosts for the West Nile Virus. This means that mosquitoes can infect bats, but bats do not transmit the virus back to mosquitoes. Since the virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes, bats do not transmit the West Nile Virus.

Because bats are huge consumers of insects, bat houses can aid in the control of mosquitoes. Therefore, installing bat houses can help to reduce the threat of West Nile Virus.


How do I exclude bats from my house?

First, find out how the bats are entering and exiting the house. This is done by watching the house at dusk to try to determine where the bats are leaving the building when they go out in search of food. If possible put a piece of netting or screening over the opening. Attach the top of the netting several inches above the opening and along the sides at least a foot to either side of the entrance. The bottom is left open so the bats can drop out. The netting will form a one-way flap so the bats can exit, but they are unable to reenter.

PLEASE NOTE!!!

The timing of exclusion is critical. Since it is important to not abandon babies within the building, it is imperative that the babies are also able to exit before excluding the parents. Most species of bats have their babies after returning from hibernation in the spring, so it is best to limit exclusion to the fall of the year. With this timing, the bats will have already left for hibernation and/or the babies are mature enough to survive on their own.

To relocate the bats, it is best to mount a bat house at the time of exclusion. Hopefully, when the bats cannot reenter the building, the bat house will provide the next best residence. In this case, it is sometimes recommended that a bit of bat guano from the previous residence will indicate familiar surroundings.

Useful links for more information:

Do-it-yourself Bat Exclusion
Professional Excluders

Where should I hang my bat house?

The most successful bat houses are those mounted on a building or a chimney at a height of 15 feet or more. In cooler climates the bat house should be mounted facing the south or east. In warmer climates all directions have proved successful. The house should face a clearing and be located away from branches or power lines. Bat houses with ventilation slots on the side should be mounted so the slots will not be obstructed by the eaves of the building. Pole mounted houses may be more successful if the house is mounted on a backboard measuring one or two feet larger than the bat house similar to a basketball hoop mounted on a backboard. Plastic mesh or nylon window screen should be securely stapled to the entire backboard to provide a foot hold for the bats landing on the board to enter the house. Bat houses mounted on trees are the least successful because bats that naturally roost in trees are solitary and roost openly on branches colonial, crevice-dwelling species use bat houses.

How can I attract bats to my house?

There is no known substance or plant that attracts bats or increases the chances of a bat house being occupied. However, bat houses that are mounted within one mile of a water supply are more quickly inhabited than those without a water source. In addition, houses that are located in areas where colonies of bats already exist in buildings or caves are more likely to be occupied.

Can bats be purchased or relocated to my house?

It is not legal to buy and sell bats, in part because over 56% of bat species in the US are endangered or official candidates for listing with the United States Fish and Wildlife Department. Bats cannot be relocated and introduced into a bat house because they are highly territorial and will simply attempt to fly back to where they come from.

Will a bat house interfere with my bird house?

No, birds and bats do not compete for food or space.

Can a bat house on my house be dangerous?

Although bats rarely contract rabies, those that are found on the ground are more likely to be sick or injured and may bite in self-defense when handled. Consequently, children should be taught to never handle bats and pets should be vaccinated against rabies. If a bat is found grounded do not handle it with bare hands. Use leather gloves or a thick cloth to gently gather up the bat. Place the bat into a box, affix a lid and call a wildlife rehabilitator or organization for help. Keep the box in a area away from children or pets until help arrives. If the bat has already been handled without gloves or has had or is suspected of having contact with children or pets, please call your health department as well as animal control. Bat droppings pose no more of a health threat than the droppings from birds or other mammals. Potted plants placed under bat houses will receive fertilizer straight from the bats, resulting in beautiful plants!

Will a bat house attract bats to live in my home?

If bats were attracted to your home they would probably already be roosting there.

I already have a bat house and have had no luck, what's wrong?

The house may not be mounted in a good location or the house may be a poor design. Be wary of bat houses that seem small, offer no ventilation and do not have screened or grooved surfaces to provide proper foot holds. If you have already purchased a bat house that you suspect is a poor design, try modifying the house by adding the above recommendations.

How can I tell if bats have found my house?

Colonial bats are often noisy throughout the day as they change roost mates or compete for a favored spot in a roost. Another indication that bats are occupying your house is evidence of bat droppings on the landing platform or on the ground beneath the bat house.

Will predators bother bats living in a bat house?

Bat houses mounted on buildings probably offer the safest location from predators. To prevent animals from climbing, predator guards or tin should be wrapped around poles on which bat houses are mounted.

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