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I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that probably most of you do not have a bat house. Maybe you’ve never even thought about getting a bat house. Bats might even seem a little creepy or of no personal benefit to you.
So let’s start out with a few intriguing bat facts.
Bats are Mammals and Pollinators
I remember seeing a show on Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geographic, or some nature channel about bats in the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico. The videography was amazing in itself. In slow motion they showed a bat flying to a cactus to eat pollen. Big whoop, right? The WOW factor was that WHILE the mama bat was zooming from one cactus to the next getting her nibbles or slurps of pollen, her tiny pup was clinging to her AND, if I recall correctly, nursing!
Talk about a mama multi-tasking, not to mention the skill of that pup to hang on for dear life!
I just love watching stuff like that, but that part of the show was actually about the crucial role of bats in propagating the cardon cactus.
Because of the lesser longnosed bats (and other pollinators) the flowers are pollinated, the pollinated flowers produce fruit, the fruit provides nutritious food for the local people, and the fruit that falls to the ground becomes another cactus that feeds the bats that …
Bats are very important to the agave plant “… which relies solely on bats to pollinate its flowers and reproduce.”(5)
Click here to read more about how bats can benefit you and your family, your garden, and your back yard.
Some Bats Are Simply Adorable
Think I’m crazy? Okay, I’ll admit that some bats only its mama could find it adorable. However, there are some bats that almost everyone would find cute and cuddly. The fruit bat is one such bat species. Its face resembles a canine pup or a bear cub.
Here’s a YouTube video of some orphaned fruit bats being cared for by bottle. Watch this video, and then try and tell me you didn’t say at least once, “Awwwwwww!”
How to Attract Bats to Your Bat House
Once you have your bat house the next step is knowing where to install it for the most promising results. I did a little research recently, and there seemed to be three main points reiterated from one source to the next.
Install Your Bat House …
1. At a Height of 10-20 Feet
There were three common mounting heights I ran across repeatedly: 10-12 feet(1), 12-15 feet, and those same heights but with 15-20 feet(2) being ideal.
2. Where it Can Maintain a Temperature of 80-100°F(3)(2)
Depending on the bat species, there’s some fluctuation in the temperature needs of bats, but, in general, 80-100°F is the goal. They like it HOT! Mama bats prefer these temperatures for their pups.(3)
Tip: The general consensus is to install bat houses facing a South or Southeast direction for greater sun exposure unless you live in an extremely hot area.
3. With 20 Feet Clearance in All Directions(4)
This clearance helps the bats as they fly to and from and in and out of the bat house. The last thing you want is a bunch of bats bumping their little heads and getting all disoriented. (Actually, because of their echolocation skills they probably won’t run into anything; they’ll just not roost in your bat house.)
Of course, other factors can play a role in whether or not bats will roost in a given bat house, but the above three points seem to be the biggies. They can be the difference between an empty bat house and a thriving bat colony.
(There’s one more point I mention farther down in the post about mounting bat houses to trees. Be sure to read that.)
Three Very Different Bat House Stories
A Bat House Success
The photos in this post were taken a few weeks ago when John and I stopped by his bat enthusiast co-worker’s house. His name is Paul. Paul has had a thriving bat colony roosting in his bat houses for a number of years. The bats arrive in early spring and then migrate before winter.
Four years ago, when we were at Paul’s house for a cookout, was the genesis of my bat interest.
A Bat House Gone Terribly Wrong
This story is about my first bat house. Yep, four years ago, I left the cookout all psyched and ready for bats. I went home with an armful of bat goodies: a custom-made bat house, a bat magazine, and a plastic container of bat guano.
Things did not go quite as I had imagined they would with our bat house …
I’ve since learned that while mounting a bat house onto a tree can turn into a successful story, the odds are not in favor of such an ending. As a matter of fact, according to research done by Bat Conservation International, “Bat houses installed on buildings or poles are easier for bats to locate, have greater occupancy rates and are occupied two and a half times faster than those mounted on trees.”(3)
There are at least two problems with trees: 1) trees provide cooler temperatures, possibly cooler than the recommended 80-100°F, and 2) trees are high traffic areas for bat predators like raccoons, hawks, and owls. Also, I’ve seen first-hand the damage squirrels can do to a bat house by chewing on it. (They do this because their teeth never stop growing. Chewing on wood is helpful to squirrels … not so much to a bat house.) A chewed-on house does not look like an inviting or safe shelter for a mama bat to start her nursery.
A Bat House with Hope
After seeing my bat house slowly disappear to squirrels, I purchased a new bat house, AND Paul gave me another one. The bat houses sat around our house for a couple years, but two weeks ago we finally mounted the bat houses.
Instead of mounting the bat houses to the side of a tree, I chose a large wooden pole at the edge of our goat pasture – the goat pasture with no goats – as the site for the new bat houses. They’re mounted about 12 feet high, at least one is facing a direction where it will get ample sun exposure, there’s plenty of wide open space, and they’re NOT on a tree this time.
I’ll keep you apprised of the progress.
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