My favorite reason to attract bats is for insect control, but there are other reasons for attracting bats onto your property.First and foremost, bats are nature’s secret weapon to control the insects that are annoying or dangerous to humans. This is especially true of one of their favorite meals – mosquitoes! It has been reported and recorded that one small bat can capture and consume more than 1,200 mosquitoes per evening!
As you likely are aware, mosquitoes have been known to carry a variety of diseases, the most fatal of which is the West Nile Virus. The good news is that even if WNV (West Nile Virus) has been reported in your area, and your resident bats consume them, a bat cannot contract the West Nile Virus by eating infected mosquitoes. This stops the spread of further infection.
However, tonight on Global News in Toronto (August 6, 2010) it was announced that the first evidence of a West Nile virus carrying mosquito had been recorded in the downtown core. This could be the start of a lot of trouble for humans, pets and service animals in the city.
Can’t Get Control of Mosquitoes?
It is an organic solution to the mosquito problem to attract bats. We live in bug country of Ontario and some weeks there is just not enough bats to rid us of the mosquitoes, black flies and biting midges.
There are other reasons you’d want to attract bats by building a bat house though.
Bats, as a general rule, are highly sensitive to pollution and pesticide. Therefore their presence is an important and worthy indicator of a healthy environment. On the other hand, the lack of bats in an area – that once enjoyed their presence – can be considered an early warning sign that environmental problems exist in your area (or are at least on the rise).
Plus, bats don’t just consume mosquitoes. They also assist in the control of beetles, moths, and leaf ‘chuggers’ (the technical name for this insect is escaping me at the moment but that is what we call them in Ontario). Furthermore, bats don’t just consume these annoying insects, they literally scare them off!
A variety of insects can hear a bat up to 100 feet away and will avoid all areas occupied by bats. The effectiveness of bats in some areas reduces or diminishes the need for pesticides. Pesticides that harm the pests, their natural predators, and any pet or human who may consume or come into contact with vegetation that has been treated.
Bats and Rabies
Since we’re discussing bats and infectious diseases, let’s also discuss the bat-rabies misconception.
The fact of the matter is that bats are quite harmless to humans and do not exhibit any higher percentage of rabies infection than any other wildlife. Bats also do not attack humans. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Bats that are infected with rabies generally do not show the aggressive tendencies that occurs with other rabies infected wildlife.
In a bat, the rabies infection paralyzes the bat. (This is one of the main reasons why you should never pick up a bat that may be lying on the ground without protection of some sort. Actually it’s a far better idea to leave it alone entirely and call your local wildlife authority or pest removal company.
How to Attract Bats? With A Bat House!
Putting up a bat house is the first step toward attracting bats. Suitable housing for bats is rapidly decreasing in many states and provinces as many people view them as pests and try to evict them from their homes and property. I can see the reasoning, bats aren’t the type of wildlife that make us feel all warm and fuzzy, but now that you know a little more about them, doesn’t it make sense to want to keep them around?
Perhaps even attract a few more onto your property? A bat house affords the mature bats a safe place to raise their family. Bat babies are called pups – one is pictured above.
Before I go any further let me answer one of the most common questions I get – online and offline. "Can’t I just buy bats to introduce to my neighborhood?"
The answer is "No, bats are a protected species, considered public domain, which translates to the fact that it is illegal to buy, own, or sell bats. If you want them, you’ll have to attract them, and the best way to attract them is to set up suitable housing on your property."
Should You Buy or Build Your Own Bat House?
Now, you can either build or buy a bat house. If you’re planning on building your own I strongly suggest you get a paperback book on the subject and stay away from the plans you can buy online.
Why do I say this? There are over 45 species of bats in the United States and Canada. Only 10 that I know of will actually use a bat house. Each one of those 10 have specific needs – sizing and dimensions, temperatures, placement, etc.
A generic plan bought or a free plan downloaded online will only serve to attract 1 or 2 bat species. Are you sure that the particular bat it will attract is even present in your area? Or will you waste time and money building a bat house that never sees a bat?
The photo at left is the bat bungalow, right before I put it up on the barn. It was very helpful as it contained instruction on height and direction, placement and temperatures. Reasonably priced – great for city, rural or other small lots in central and eastern states and southern provinces.
You want to be careful that you get the right bat house for your location. Different bats, different temperature requirements, different sizes, and so on. If you click the bat house at right (it is under $20 at amazon) you’ll land on the Northern States and Canada bat house. Once you’re on the site you can switch for your local.
This article was originally published on GoodByeCityLife.com in 2002 in the Out in the Fields category.