Why House Bats?
Bats have long been
maligned by humans -- a taboo, a creature to be shunned. These little
furry animals that fly seemed to be half-bird, half-mammal, and looked ugly.
But today they are being
given their proper recognition as valuable to mankind in the ecological
system. Many plants, such as bananas and the endangered saguaro cactus,
are dependent upon bats for pollination because they bloom at night. Bats
are also responsible for 95% of the reforestation of the tropical rain forests
through their dispersal of seeds.
Their immediate appeal to
most people is their enormous capacity for consuming insects. A nocturnal
animal, the bat eats when the insects are out, in contrast to birds, which eat
during the day. Some bat species consume half their weight in a night -- as many
as 600 or more gnat-sized insects an hour!
A single little brown bat
(Myotis lucifugas) or big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), some of
the most abundant and widespread bats in North America, can eat 3,000 to 7,000
mosquitoes each night, and a bat can live to be 20 years old. That's a
pretty effective insecticide, especially when you consider that it doesn't
poison other creatures or make holes in the ozone layer!
Truth About Bats
Bats are misunderstood
creatures that are generally quite harmless to people. They do not become
tangled in your hair, nor do they attack humans. Contrary to
misconceptions, disease transmission from bats to people is easily avoided.
Never handle bats and the odds of being harmed will be extremely remote.
"In more than four decades,
public health records indicate that only 16 people in the United States and
Canada have died of bat-borne diseases... Placed in perspective, this means that
the odds of anyone dying of a disease from a bat are much less than one in a
million. In contrast, in the United States alone more than 10 people die
annually from dog attacks, not to mention dog- and cat-transmitted diseases." -
Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle, "America's Neighborhood Bats," University of Texas Press,
Austin, 1988. In contrast, several children in a million are likely to die each
year from encephalitis contracted through a mosquito bite.
In the Orient these gentle
animals are symbols of good luck, long life and happiness. They are
meticulous in their grooming, spending a fair part of the day and night combing
and grooming their fur.
When bats fly, they navigate by means of an
sophisticated echolocation system. The bat sends out signals of sound
energy, which are reflected back, giving it the location of an object as well as
its texture and other characteristics. They can avoid a single human hair
with extreme accuracy, even in total darkness, giving lie to the myth that bats
Bat Housing Crunch
Bats are feeling the
housing crunch as much as people, with their favorite old hollow trees, barns,
and old houses disappearing. For this reason many bats are choosing bat
houses as permanent roosting sites.
In order for bat houses to
be successful they need to meet specific criteria, such as, narrow crevices at
the bottom for bats to enter and screened or rough surfaces inside for them to
hold onto. A bat house should be hung at least 10 to 15 feet above the ground,
sheltered from the wind, and unobstructed by obstacles to flying, such as power
lines and tree branches. Bat houses located near a source of water, especially a
marsh, lake or stream, are most likely to attract bats, as this habitat attracts
insects and provides a plentiful food supply for the bats. To keep the interior
very warm, place the house on the side of a building or tree which receives
several hours of morning or afternoon sun (100-110 degrees F is required by
nursery colonies). If you are located in a cooler climate you may want to
add tar paper or dark colored shingles to the bat house roof to help warm the
house. If you are located in a warmer climate the bat house can be painted a
beige or tan color using latex pain, or mounted as is. The pine wood will
weather nicely to an attractive silver gray color which blends well with outdoor
During winter months bats
living in Canada and the northern two-thirds of the US migrate south or to
nearby caves for a period of hibernation, as most bat species cannot survive
Bats are in need of
protection if they are to survive. They have proven themselves as valuable
members of our ecosystem, and we must increase the awareness of people who have
the ability to protect or to destroy these little creatures.
Bats are declining,
world-wide, at an alarming rate, due to human misunderstanding. They have
typically only one offspring per year, making their comeback slow and in need of
our help. Coveside Conservation Products supports the Bat World Sanctuary
and Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit organizations dedicated to
educating the public about these beneficial animals and helping to conserve
Coveside's Bat Houses
The bat houses made by
Coveside Conservation Products are handcrafted of select, kiln-dried
eastern white pine for durability, attractiveness, and insulation
qualities. The walls are thick to keep the interior warm. They are
rough-sawn to provide a surface for the bats to hang onto.
Inside are several
partitions, because bats like narrow spaces, and this allows more surface room
for roosting bats. The houses are open at the bottom to eliminate the need for
cleaning, and to prevent birds from nesting in the house.
back to top...
Do bats transmit the West Nile
According to Bat Conservation International, bats
are "dead-end hosts" for the West Nile Virus. This means that mosquitoes can
infect bats, but bats do not transmit the virus back to mosquitoes. Since the
virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes, bats do not transmit the
West Nile Virus.
Because bats are huge
consumers of insects, bat houses can aid in the control of mosquitoes.
Therefore, installing bat houses can help to reduce the threat of West Nile
How do I
exclude bats from my house?
First, find out how the
bats are entering and exiting the house. This is done by watching the house at
dusk to try to determine where the bats are leaving the building when they go
out in search of food. If possible put a piece of netting or screening over the
opening. Attach the top of the netting several inches above the opening and
along the sides at least a foot to either side of the entrance. The bottom is
left open so the bats can drop out. The netting will form a one-way flap so the
bats can exit, but they are unable to reenter.
The timing of exclusion is
critical. Since it is important to not abandon babies within the building, it is
imperative that the babies are also able to exit before excluding the parents.
Most species of bats have their babies after returning from hibernation in the
spring, so it is best to limit exclusion to the fall of the year. With this
timing, the bats will have already left for hibernation and/or the babies are
mature enough to survive on their own.
To relocate the bats, it is
best to mount a bat house at the time of exclusion. Hopefully, when the bats
cannot reenter the building, the bat house will provide the next best residence.
In this case, it is sometimes recommended that a bit of bat guano from the
previous residence will indicate familiar surroundings.
Useful links for more
Where should I hang
my bat house?
The most successful bat
houses are those mounted on a building or a chimney at a height of 15 feet or
more. In cooler climates the bat house should be mounted facing the south or
east. In warmer climates all directions have proved successful. The house should
face a clearing and be located away from branches or power lines. Bat houses
with ventilation slots on the side should be mounted so the slots will not be
obstructed by the eaves of the building. Pole mounted houses may be more
successful if the house is mounted on a backboard measuring one or two feet
larger than the bat house (similar to a basketball hoop mounted on a backboard).
Plastic mesh or nylon window screen should be securely stapled to the entire
backboard to provide a foot hold for the bats landing on the board to enter the
house. Bat houses mounted on trees are the least successful because bats that
naturally roost in trees are solitary and roost openly on branches (colonial,
crevice-dwelling species use bat houses).
How can I attract
bats to my house?
There is no
known substance or plant that attracts bats or increases the chances of a bat
house being occupied. However, bat houses that are mounted within one mile of a
water supply are more quickly inhabited than those without a water source. In
addition, houses that are located in areas where colonies of bats already exist
in buildings or caves are more likely to be occupied.
Can bats be
purchased or relocated to my house?
It is not legal to buy and
sell bats, in part because over 56% of bat species in the US are endangered or
official candidates for listing with the United States Fish and Wildlife
Department. Bats cannot be relocated and introduced into a bat house because
they are highly territorial and will simply attempt to fly back to where they
Will a bat house
interfere with my bird house?
No, birds and
bats do not compete for food or space.
Can a bat house on
my house be dangerous?
rarely contract rabies, those that are found on the ground are more likely to be
sick (or injured) and may bite in self-defense when handled. Consequently,
children should be taught to never handle bats and pets should be vaccinated
against rabies. If a bat is found grounded do not handle it with bare hands. Use
leather gloves or a thick cloth to gently gather up the bat. Place the bat into
a box, affix a lid and call a wildlife rehabilitator or organization for help.
Keep the box in a area away from children or pets until help arrives. If the bat
has already been handled without gloves or has had (or is suspected of having)
contact with children or pets, please call your health department as well as
animal control. Bat droppings (guano) pose no more of a health threat than the
droppings from birds or other mammals. Potted plants placed under bat houses
will receive fertilizer straight from the bats, resulting in beautiful
Will a bat house
attract bats to live in my home?
If bats were
attracted to your home they would probably already be roosting there.
I already have a bat
house and have had no luck, what's wrong?
The house may
not be mounted in a good location or the house may be a poor design. Be wary of
bat houses that seem small, offer no ventilation and do not have screened or
grooved surfaces to provide proper foot holds. If you have already purchased a
bat house that you suspect is a poor design, try modifying the house by adding
the above recommendations.
How can I tell if
bats have found my house?
are often noisy throughout the day as they change roost mates or compete for a
favored spot in a roost. Another indication that bats are occupying your house
is evidence of bat droppings on the landing platform or on the ground beneath
the bat house.
bother bats living in a bat house?
mounted on buildings probably offer the safest location from predators. To
prevent animals from climbing, predator guards or tin should be wrapped around
poles on which bat houses are mounted.