Bats are struggling with survival because many of their natural roosting places are being damaged and destroyed. This makes it harder for them to find food to eat, raise pups, and survive. One way that your family can give bats a little edge back is by providing a bat house or houses on your property.
What is a bat house?
A bat house or bat box is an artificial roost that provides shelter for bats when they have trouble finding natural roosting spots. When designed well, it can provide bats with an excellent alternative to natural roosts.
Do bat houses really help bats?
Do bat houses help humans?
What features should I look for in bat house?
Actually quite a few! Because your bat house is trying to mimic the space between bark and a tree trunk, it should be very narrow inside. The reason is that an ideal bats nursery needs to be warm for babies—also, bats just like tight spaces. An ideal bat house should be painted a dark color to keep the box warmer. Caulking also helps with heat retention. To make it easier for the bats to climb up, make sure roosting boards and landing pads are rough, making it more like tree bark. An ideal bat house should be at least 24” high x 16” wide. Smaller bat houses do not offer adequate thermal stability. Metal mesh, hardware cloth, or aluminum window screen is not acceptable, as these can cause injury to bats. The very best bat box is one with two or more internal compartments, and one that is as large as possible – a deep cavern makes bats feel really safe, and keeps the air temperature more constant. You can learn more here.
Where do I put up my bat house?
You should look for a location with lots of sun, at least 15 feet off the ground (to protect against predators); and ideally a water source nearby (so the mother bat doesn't have to leave her young for too long). Interestingly, bats are less attracted to bat houses mounted on trees. Bat Conservation International conducted a 10-year study to confirm best practices and provides you with guiding tips on where to locate and install your bat house(s). You can find them here.
How do I get one?
You can build one or buy one. It's up to you! If you build one, it's a great family weekend project with many mini-tasks that kids of any age can help out with from helping to draw the plans to measuring wood and using a hammer. There are lots of plans and video tutorials available online as well as models you can simply purchase. Look for one that is Bat Con approved if you can. We've rounded up a few ideas here.
Bat Conservation International, BCI
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
RSPB knows flying critters! Here, you'll find a step-by-step bat box guide complete with free bat house plans and many excellent tips for keeping bats happy and thriving! For those who prefer to follow video walk-throughs, RSPB provides that option here as well!
Yellow Brick House
Here's an excellent video tutorial from Modern Builds on building a simple single chamber bat house made from supplies available from your local home center. We like the thoughtful details like predator guard. Modern Builds also includes a written article with plans, materials, and more information about bats and bat houses. This design does use a mesh to help the bats climb inside but the builder does say the product is quite durable.
BatBnB is a start up featured on Shark Tank that makes a line of designer bat houses. The company says they "have provided safe homes to over 500,000 bats in order to help raise their pups and regrow the population at a time when bats have been declining by the tens of millions due to white nose syndrome and habitat loss." The company has collaborated with bat conservationist Merlin Tuttle on the house design.
An easy and economical option, this triple chamber cedar bat house from Nature's way measures 20.5" x 12" x 5". It claims to house up to 100 bats. Reviews are both in favor and against plastic mesh so ensure that your model has the mesh securely stapled on if you go with this one.