Wait a minute. You're going to tell me how to attract bats into my yard? The things that fly in your hair and suck your blood?
Well, bats do not fly into anybody's hair and unless you are a Holstein grazing in
South America they will not be sucking your blood either. And a single foraging bat
will gobble thousands of mosquitoes in a night.
For decades Europeans have practiced insect control with backyard bat boxes,
small wooden shelters similar to birdhouses where bats roost. Once established a
bat colony can help cripple a local mosquito population.
Not only are bat colonies an ecologically friendly alternative to pesticides but
they complement today's organic gardens. Droppings that fall out of a bat house
provide excellent fertilizer, high in nitrogen. Unlike electronic bug zappers, bats
do not frighten birds from your yard.
And bats need homes. Natural roosts such as caves and hollow tree trunks are
increasingly scarce. The average suburban tree does not yield many good places to
roost to the inquisitive bypassing bat. Vigilant park workers sever rotten tree limbs
and clear hollow and fallen trees in the interests of public safety.
Where is a shelter-seeking bat to turn? "Many bats favor old buildings
because they offer nooks and crannies for roosting, "says Paul Gorenzel of the
University of California-Davis, "but new construction is tighter and does not provide
good homes. "Colonies containing many thousands of free-tailed bats can be found
living in buildings or under bridges.
Backyard bat houses are popular alternative roosts. Today the Bat
Conservation International of Austin, Texas reports more requests for bat houses
than frantic calls about rabid bats. (Few bats contract rabies and if they do, quickly
die when sick. Even when rabid these shy animals rarely become aggressive.)
Homeowners extending an invitation to bats will be most successful if their bat
house is located near a permanent source of water. Bat houses can be mounted,
ideally 20 feet high, on trees or poles but houses attached to building sides provide
greater temperature stability. The entrance should be free of obstructions to enable
bats to access their new home easily.
A new bat host must be patient waiting for his guests. A year to 18 months is
a typical waiting period for a bat colony to roost. Most species are migratory,
seeking suitable caves to hibernate through the winter. Hanging a bat house in the
fall or winter can prompt occupancy the following spring when migrating bats
The little brown bat is the most likely bat to occupy your bat box. This
voracious insectivore will feed on aquatic insects, sometimes catching as many as
600 mosquitoes an hour in their wings as they dart through the night sky. The little
brown bat often shares its roost with its close relative, the big brown bat. The big
brown bat is extremely hardy and can remain active year. It favors beetles for its
For more information on bats and bat houses visit the Bat Conservation
At International Http://www.batcon.org . For a small donation of any size you will receive a
booklet on bat basics and a set of house-building plans.