Attracting Bats to Bat Houses

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This post contains affiliate links.

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

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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

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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

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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. :D

The two below images are affiliate links.

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Sources:
(1) http://www.habitatforbats.org/?page_id=26
(2) http://bathouse.com/how-to-attract-bats
(3) http://www.batcon.org/pdfs/bathouses/attractingbats.pdf
(4) http://www.batconservation.org/bat-house/where-to-place
(5) http://blog.nwf.org/2014/06/not-just-the-birds-and-bees-6-fast-facts-about-pollinating-bats/

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19 comments to Attracting Bats to Bat Houses

  • Rachelle

    AWESOME! Am so excited to hear how this goes for you. ANd I have already learned so much! Next is to talk hubby into bat houses! I won out in the end with the worms so I have high hopes for a bat house! Any idea how many bats per house? Do the same bats come back year after year? Like certain birds?

    • Holly

      So glad to hear you won the worm debate. ;) I hope you have the same success with bats.

      As far as your question on how many bats will fit/live in a bat house, it depends. It depends on at least two factors (maybe more):

      1. the bat species (the size of that bat species) and
      2. the size of the bat house.

      Houses with tall chambers and multiple chambers do best, but that’s not to say you won’t have success with smaller, single chambered houses.

      One of the affiliate link images I show is a triple chamber bat house. It does not indicate how many will fit in the house, but a lot of the bat houses on that site will specify how many bats it should be able to accommodate.

      Paul’s bat houses are probably 18″-20″-ish tall and have three chambers.

      And, yes, bats do typically come back to the same roosting site each year.

  • Where are you located? We are in North Texas and I just saw a bat last night.

  • Thank you for sharing this important information about bats and bat houses!

  • Very interesting! We live on a man made lake in California. When we first moved in there were lots of bats. I suspect someone complained and they were eradicated:( Now we have a bug problem.

    • Holly

      Don’t you just love how mankind flies in with a cape to save the day?! LOL.

      Bats do like to be near water, so as long as people leave the situation alone the bats may return … in time.

  • I’ve never had a problem with bats before (or yet) but this is great to know! Love the “bat house”!!

  • This is so interesting! I need pollenators so bad!

    • Holly

      We could use more pollinators, too. I should have mentioned that not all bats are pollinators. Some eat insects, and some eat pollen. But I’ll take them for the mosquito control, even if the bats in our area don’t pollinate. I just love animals. The fact that bats eat mosquitoes and pollen is just icing on the cake. :)

  • Milena

    I live in Northern Illinois and I have never seen a bat in my area. Can bats be purchased? If not, how do I entice bats to make the trip up to our area and stick around?

    • Holly

      I’m not sure if it’s legal to purchase bats, but even if it is legal it’s discouraged. (I think one of the sources I referenced talks about that in brevity.)

      I live in Indiana, next door to you :), so you probably have bats around you but just haven’t seen them. The best way to attract them to your yard is with a well-built bat house placed in an ideal location (as described in the post).

  • Lori

    Thanks for the info. I am going to look into getting a couple of bat houses put up!

  • I love bats. I have considered adding a bat house to our garden and may do so, though we have quite a large population already. They are such intriguing creatures.

    • Holly

      They are neat little creatures, aren’t they?

      Since you already have so many bats in the area, you might see bats move into a bat house a little faster than “normal.” If you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter, I’d recommend having the bat house mounted before next spring when the bats come back to their old roosting sites. Many bats, like young bachelor bats, will look for new roosting sites. Go for it!! :)

  • You may have bats around, even if you hardly ever see them. I go out right around dusk and sit for a while, and I generally see several, so I know they are there. Turn on a light, so the moths are attracted, and you’ll also attract the bats.

  • Thank you for posting the info on bats! I received a bat house as a gift a couple of years ago. Put it on a bamboo pole. Then Mr Woodpecker came along and pecked a hole in it,lol. Not going to give up though,just need to get another one. I live in Southeast GA and see bats in my yard often. Thanks Again! :)

    • Holly

      So glad you stopped by, Robbie.

      Yes, definitely don’t give up. Just try again, and be sure to use the tips in the post. I hope you get bats! :D

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