When I was a kid, bats would occasionally fly into our house through the fireplace. My brother and his friends chased them around with tennis rackets. Fortunately, they had bad aim.
We just didn’t know then that those mosquito-eating bats were our friends. One little brown bat can eat several thousand insects each night—and they have no interest in attacking us or our pets. If you have a mosquito problem or just want to diversify your backyard wildlife, consider inviting in bats with a bat house. Here’s what you need to know, from “Bats in Your Belfry: Make Your Home Bat-Friendly” in Natural Home & Garden.
Photo by Merlin Tuttle/Bat Conservation International
• Look for Bat Conservation International’s seal of approval before buying or building a bat house. This nonprofit group’s website, BatCon.org, lists certified houses, do-it-yourself plans and climate-specific tips.
• Bats like it hot. Select a sunny, dry spot for the bat house. Cover the exterior with several coats of dark, water-based paint to raise the inside temperature.
• Mount houses at least 12 to 15 feet high on a building or sturdy poles. The front should face the sun and have an open fly zone.
• Don’t get discouraged if your house goes unused. Try relocating or repainting vacant houses after a year or so.
• Expect seasonal visits; many bats winter elsewhere. Spring may attract nursing mothers.
• Larger designs (more than 2 feet tall) and multiple houses increase occupancy chances.
• If you’re building your own, use exterior-grade plywood or wood (avoid pressure-treated lumber).
Photo by Mark and Selina Kiser/Bat Conservation International