Bats are an extremely important part of our environment, yet are in serious decline due to years of unwarranted human fear and persecution. However, bats are one of humanity's most valuable allies in the fight against yard and garden pests and also in slowing the spread of insect-borne diseases. Bat houses are therefore a great addition to your backyard. Bats are so helpful to people that by putting up a bat house, you will not only be giving the bats a home, but you'll be helping yourself.
Bats eat a large number of flying insect and are the main nighttime predator of mosquitoes. A single little brown bat can eat between 600 and 1,200 mosquitoes an hour and a typical colony of big brown bats can protect local farmers from the costly attacks of 18 million root-worms each summer.
Unlike their stereotype, bats are not blind, and are actually very clean animals. They do not get caught in peoples’ hair or chew through the attic of your house. Bats will not interfere with feeding backyard birds, and they will not be disrupted by pets or children.
Many people have serious misconceptions about bats. Myths that they are vicious carriers of rabies and pests are abundant. Bats are actually quite harmless and are important indicators of a healthy environment. Because bats are sensitive to pollution and pesticide levels, they are useful as a warning sign to potential environmental problems. Bats can also be important weapons in combating insects that are actually dangerous to humans.
With the increased media coverage of the deaths caused by the West Nile Virus, many people are looking for effective ways to prevent the spread of the disease. The West Nile Virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes and mosquitoes are a significant portion of a bat's diet. As previously stated, a small bat can capture more than 1,200 mosquitoes in a single hour! Bats cannot contract the West Nile Virus by eating infected mosquitoes. In addition to mosquitoes, bats can help control the populations of beetles, moths and leafhoppers.
Even the very presence of bats in an area can reduce insect populations as many insects can hear bats up to 100 feet away and will keep their distance from areas occupied by bats. The effectiveness of bats in some areas diminishes the need for pesticides, which will harm both the pests and their natural predators.
Installing a bat house then is one of the most effective and environmentally friendly ways to reduce the mosquito population near your home. Bat house sizes carried by The Urban Nature Store range in capacity from holding 20 to over 100 bats. Most North American species of bats prefer to live in large groups, called colonies; so a mid-sized house (80-300 bats) is recommended for most situations. A bat house may be mounted on a tree, a pole without nearby obstructions, or a building. However, bat houses mounted on poles or buildings tend to have a slightly higher occupancy faster than those mounted on trees. For mounting on buildings, wood, stone or brick buildings are best; and your bat house should be mounted under the eaves with some sun exposure to protect it from rain while still allowing it to be heated by the sun. You should mount your house 15-20 feet above the ground where it will not be exposed to bright lights, the higher the house the greater the chance of attracting bats.
The direction where you mount your bat house also plays a major role in the internal temperature. Bat houses should face south to southeast to take advantage of the morning sun. In northern states and Canada, bat houses need to receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. In northern areas, it is also advantageous to paint the bat house black to absorb plenty of heat (when baby bats are born, they need it very warm). Use non-toxic, latex paint to paint your bat house and only paint the outside. . Bats return from migration and awaken from hibernation as early as March in most of the U.S., but stay active year-round in the extreme southern U.S. They will be abundant throughout the summer and into late fall. Most houses used by bats are occupied in the first 1 to 6 months (during the first summer the bat house was erected). If bats do not roost in your house by the end of the second summer, move the house to another location. Some things that may prevent bats from using them include heavy use of pesticides, a lack of hibernating sites, too great a distance to feeding or drinking sites, or an abundance of available summer roosting sites. Once the houses are occupied they should not be moved or cleaned.
Bats like tight and warm spaces. They like it to be 80 to 100 degrees in July when they have their young with them. The bat house should be placed in the sun and around 12 to 20 feet off the ground to prevent predators from getting them.
Not all bat houses are built properly. Short and stout houses tend to have little chance of attracting bats, where longer, wider houses work quite well. Older designs only have about a 10% occupancy rate while some of the wider, flatter houses can have up to an 80% occupancy.
We highly recommend that you get the largest bat house model you can afford and not just because it costs more. Research by Bat Conservation International has shown that larger the bat house is the greater success it has at being a good home for bats. Also multiple bat houses are even more attractive than a single bat house. In most areas north of about 40 degrees N and Canada research shows that bat houses should be painted black or a dark color to maximize solar heating, so you should consider doing that to your house when it arrives (If it isn't black already).
It may even be desirable to set up an alternate bat house so they can move from one to the other to regulate their environment.
These are just a few of the several excellent reasons to install bat houses on your property. Many local bat populations are in danger or are already displaced due to habitat destruction and alteration by humans, so providing artificial roosts to replace lost habitat is a primary reason to install a bat house. Bat houses can have success even in suburban and urban areas. If you have ever seen bats flying around your neighborhood, a bat house will probably help. Encouraging bats to live in bat houses near your home, farm, or orchard may provide some reduction in insect pests. Besides all that, installing a bat house and observing the occupants is an exciting and fun activity for the whole family.
People all over the world have discovered the benefits and wonder of using bat houses to attract bats to their own backyards. We hope you will join them by providing new homes for these gentle and fascinating mammals with a voracious appetite for troublesome insects.
Enjoy your neighbourhood bats.