Bats have not enjoyed much positive press this year, but they are still some of our best friends in nature. For starters, science tells us some of our traditional misconceptions are bogus; bats are not prone to rabies or aggressive to humans, and guano is not a source of tuberculosis.
On top of that, while cities spend a fortune on chemicals to avoid West Nile, and homeowners spend plenty on propane traps or noisy zappers to keep mosquitoes away from their backyard oases or farms, bats do the job for free. Not only do each of these snappy little vacuums rid you of 500-1,000 insects per hour, as a bonus, they will also help pollinate your yard.
So why not invite some new friends to a safe nesting spot in your yard, on your trees, or aside your home; sit back and enjoy the benefits.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ECHOLOCATION
AN IDEAL BAT BOX IS…
- At least 15’ above the ground for sun exposure and protection from predators
- Light in color (it’s hot enough here already)
- 24” tall and wide, and 5-6” deep with vents
- One or more dark, tight chambers
on the inside
- Rough interior, so bats can cling to it
- Close to a water source
- When you hang your box, be on lookout for occupancy. Keep trying different mounts under your eaves, on exterior walls, or
different trees until you get plenty of regular visitors.
Bat Conservation International says when bat houses are placed with the bats’ needs in mind, high occupancy is likely. If you live within a quarter-mile of a body of water, and have a spot that receives four or more hours of daily sun, your odds go up. If you keep the wood plain or light-colored, and live near an orchard or other mixed agriculture, it is practically guaranteed.
Specific to Texas, most bats are happy to live on the southeast side of a home in the summer—extra points if it is a shady or stone surface—so they only get about 2-3 hours of sun and don’t overheat. In cooler months, they prefer a west-facing house.
If you decide to give it a try, and several locations don’t seem to be working, it could be that local bats already have all the roosts they need. Also consider whether the area does not allow for relatively undisturbed hibernation; local pollution, and food sources.
PUTTING OUT THE WELCOME MAT
You can download simple plans for a bat box at
BatCon.org, and if you’re not ready to build your mini-condo, you can purchase starter houses at McCoy’s, Tractor Supply, and Bass Pro Shop in Georgetown.
At the very least, you can just leave that dead tree where it is in your yard, forego pesticides that will repel bats, and keep an eye out for cats.