Bats: The Truth Behind Misconceptions
When you think of bats what do you envision? Blood-sucking related to "vampire" activities? Or perhaps disease spreaders – like rabies? Unfortunately bats have a bad reputation that they don't deserve. "Less than one percent of all bats potentially have rabies," said Mike Lacki, wildlife ecologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "A bat contracts rabies by contact with another organism that is rabid. Once infected, the bat will die. A bat lying on the ground and behaving abnormally might be rabid so use caution when around a bat under these conditions." And yes there are vampire bats, all species habitating in Central and South America, but they feed on birds, fowl and livestock.
The truth of the matter is that bats play a crucial role in the life cycles of many plants, either by pollinated plants as them search for nectar from flower to flower or by eating ripe fruit and spreading the seeds as they pass through their digestive tracts. Another factor not to overlook is that bats are a huge role in controlling insect populations – like pesky mosquitoes.
- The mosquito is responsible for the most human deaths worldwide.
- A moving target can be detected at 18 feet away by a mosquito.
- Mosquitoes lay up to 300 eggs at a time.
- It's estimated that mosquitoes can fly between 1 to 1.5 miles per hour.
Build a Bat House to Help Control Mosquito Populations
Of all the "How to Build a Bat House" plans we searched through, we found the Bat Conservation International Single-Chamber Bat House (wall mounted) to be one of the easiest.(Download – Single-Chamber_Bat_House_Plans_Bat_Conservation_International.pdf)
- 1/4 sheet (2' x 4') 1/2" AC, BC or T1-11 (outdoor grade) plywood
- 1" x 2" (3/4" x 1 1/2" finished) x 8' pine (furring strip)
- 20 to 30 exterior-grade screws, 1"
- One pint dark, water-based stain, exterior grade
- One pint water-based primer, exterior grade
- One quart flat, water-based paint or stain, exterior grade (For the best color, please read What_Color_Should_I_Paint_My_Bat_House.pdf)
- One tube paintable latex caulk
- 1" x 4" x 28" board for roof (optional, but highly recommended)
Black asphalt shingles or galvanized metal (optional)
- 6 to 10 roofing nails, 7/8" (if using shingles or metal roofing)
- Table saw or handsaw
- Variable-speed reversing drill
- Screwdriver bit for drill
- Tape measure
- Caulking gun
- Hammer (optional)
- Tin snips (optional)
- Measure and cut plywood into three pieces: 261⁄2" x 24" 161⁄2" x 24" 5" x 24"
- Roughen inside of backboard and landing area by cutting h o r i zontal grooves with sharp object or saw. Space grooves 1⁄4" to 1⁄2" apart, cutting 1⁄32" to 1⁄16" deep.
- Apply two coats of dark, water-based stain to interior surfaces. Do not use paint, as it will fill grooves.
- Cut furring strip into one 24" and two 201⁄2" pieces.
- Attach furring strips to back, caulking first. St a rt with 24" piece at top. Roost chamber spacing is 3⁄4".
- Attach front to furring strips, top piece first (caulk first). Leave 1⁄2" vent space between top and bottom front pieces.
- Caulk all outside joints to further seal roost chamber.
- Attach a 1" x 4" x 28" board to the top as a roof (optional, but highly recommended).
- Apply three coats of paint or stain to the exterior (use primer for first coat).
- Cover roof with shingles or galvanized metal (optional).
- Mount on building (south or east sides usually best).
For more detailed information on how best to build a bat house, please download Bat_Conservation_Internationals_Bat_House_Project.pdf. (Bat Conservation International) You'll find answers to frequently asked questions about bat houses and helpful criteria to make your bat house as successful as possible. The Bat Conservation International even offers a book "The Bat House Builder's Handbook" and a video "Building Homes for Bats" to help you in your endeavor. To order a copy of either please call 1-800-538-BATS (2287) or visit their website.
Do You Prefer to Buy a Bat Conservatory House?
The Bat Conservatory offered by Gaiam.com is made of Western Red Cedar sawmill trim and can house approximately 40 bats.
You'll want to mount your new Bat Conservatory at least 15" above the ground on any pole, tree or perhaps the side of a building to protect your bats from predators. Try to take advantage of the morning sunlight and mount your bat house facing southeast.
Made in the USA.
Dimensions: 24 1/2" H x 16" W x 5 1/4" D.
Weight: 11 lbs
Fun (Little Known) Bat Facts
- A single little brown bat can capture up to 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour.
- The world's smalled mammal is a bat, the tiny bumblebee bat, that weighs less than a penny.
- The largest bat, giant flying foxes, have a six foot wingspan.
- An enzyme in the vampire bats' saliva is among the most potent blood-clot dissolvers known and is used to treat human stroke victims.
- The Mexican free-tailed bat saves the farmers in south-central Texas up to $1.7 million a year in pesticide costs to keep the dreadful corn earworm moth from their crops.
- On average, mother bats rear only one young per year, sometimes not giving birth until they are two or three years old themselves.
Tips for Attracting Bats to Your Newly Built Bat House and Backyard
- Bat houses installed on buildings or poles are easier for bats to locate.
- Maintain a warm (and stable) temperature inside the bat house; try to stay between 80 to 100 degrees F in the summer.
- Painted or stained bat houses are more successful at attracting bats.
- After bats leave each winter and wasps have left it's time to clean out mud dauber nests and wap nests.
Image by Jim Nieland
Founded in 1982 the Bat Conservation International is a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas. They own Bracken Cave in Texas which in the summer months houses between 20 to 30 million Mexican free-tailed bats.