For too long, bats have had a bad reputation. The myths and misinformation around these unique night flyers have sent people running. No, we're not talking about the stories out of Transylvania but other common misconceptions about these unique creatures.
It is often believed that bats are part of the rodent family. Who wants a bunch of winged rodents swooping about their yard in the middle of the night? However, bats are so unique that they are actually in a classification all their own, called 'Chiroptera.' And there's no reason to fear them approaching you when you're sitting around the campfire. Bats are equipped with incredible echolocation, making the chances of them getting caught in your hair when they swoop for a nearby bug rather rare and unlikely.
There are many reasons to welcome bats into your backyard that can be beneficial to both the bats and your yard.
When the sun goes down and the bees call it a night, the bats take over and work the late shift. Spreading pollen as they search for nectar and bugs, they are excellent helpers for growing both your veggie garden and flower beds.
The peskiest of summertime bugs are one of bats' favorite meals...mosquitoes! Some bats are said to eat over one thousand mosquitoes an hour! It's not just the mosquitoes that bats eat from your yard. Bats enjoy a wide variety of bugs and insects and can help combat the pest population in your gardens and flower beds.
As more becomes known about bats and their benefits, these fly-by-night neighbours are becoming a welcome guest in many yards. What better way to tell these pest-eating pollinators they are welcome in your yard than by giving them a house of their own.
A simple structure and the right location provide bats with the shelter they need to roost during the day. Bat houses can be purchased ready-made or are an easy DIY project for an afternoon.
A bat house consists of four exterior walls, one or more interior partition walls and a roof, with an open bottom for the bats to get in and out. When creating your own bat house be sure to mark all the interior facing wood with shallow lines/grooves that the bats need to grip onto the house. Your bat house also needs to be light proof and weatherproof, which can be done by caulking all seals. You should paint the exterior of your bat house a dark color to increase the temperature inside. Don't paint or stain the interior facing wood and don't use treated wood for your construction as the chemicals will not be good for the bats and may keep them away.
Unlike birdhouses, you'll want to keep your bat houses off of tree branches. The branches will make it more difficult for the bats to get in and out and may hinder the bat's flight. Of course, trees also provide shade, reducing the temperature of the house. It's best to install your bat house on tree trunks, poles or even a building. It also needs to be at least three metres off the ground to keep them out of reach of predators, and not placed near artificial light like a streetlamp. A bat shelter set up in early spring or fall of the previous year has the best chance of getting tenants.
When your bat house is inhabited, avoid disrupting its occupants, but you can get an idea of the size of the colony inside the house by counting the individuals during the day. If you have not had bats in your house after a year or two, you can try changing its location. It's best to install your house in early spring, so if you don't have anyone occupying it this year, keep it up over the winter so it's ready when next spring arrives.