Build a Bat House and Other Tips for Attracting Bats to Your Backyard
Sadly, some people are frightened by false myths about bats, but the truth is that bats are very beneficial to the environment. Bats are the single most important controller of night-flying insects, including mosquitoes, moths, and beetles. They will eat up to their full body weight in insects each night, reducing backyard and farm-crop pests. Some species play an important role in fruit production by dispersing seeds and pollinating fruits when drinking the nectar of flowers.
Today almost 40 percent of bats are threatened or endangered. Sometimes people intentionally destroy bats, driven by unfounded fears that bats attack people and carry rabies. Habitat destruction is also a big problem. Many people remove dead or dying trees from their yards, but these trees provide excellent habitat for bats. A bat house in your yard will help attract bats and provide them with much-needed roosting habitat. You can build your own bat house with our plans here, or you can purchase a pre-made bat house.
Providing sufficient warmth without overheating is a key to attracting bats.
Attracting Bats with Good Bat House Location
The best locations are along the borders of streams, rivers, or lakes or along a forest edge, because these are natural bat flyways. The bat house should be placed 15-20 feet above the ground, in a spot that receives sun most of the day. Bats find houses mounted on poles or buildings twice as fast as those on trees. Tree trunks are not as preferable because they tend to receive less sun, and may be more vulnerable to predators. Safety from predators is a key factor in bat choice. Bat houses mounted on the sides of buildings or high up on poles provide the best protection. Locations at least 20-25 feet from trees reduce obstructions and predation, and receive more sunlight.
Bat houses in cool climates need to absorb more solar heat than those in hot climates. They should be black where average high temperatures in July are 80-85°F or less; dark brown, gray, or green where they are 85-95°F; medium or light-colored where they are 95-100°F; and white where they exceed 100°F.
Bat House Design and Construction
The most successful houses at attracting bats are two feet tall, at least 14 inches wide, and have 3-6 inch landing areas extending below the entrance. Bat houses with 1-6 chambers can be successful, but three or four chambers are ideal, particularly for nursery colonies. Roost partitions should be spaced between 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch apart.
Safety from predators is a key factor attracting bats.
Partitions and landing areas need to be roughened. Wood surfaces can simply be scratched, but it’s nest to cover them with a durable plastic screen that is 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch mesh. Do not cover the ventilation slots, and be sure the screening is also attached to one side of each roost partition.
Ventilation slots are very important in all bat houses to be used where average high temperatures in July are 85° or above. They should be 1/2-inch wide to prevent light and birds invasion. The front vent should extend from side to side about six inches above the bottom. A vertical vent, 1/2-inch wide by six inches long, should be included at each end of the rear chamber.
Half-inch plywood is ideal for the front, back, and roof, and 1-inch board lumber is best for the sides. Using 1/4-inch plywood for roosting partitions will reduce the weight of the bat house, enabling more roosting space.
All seams should be caulked prior to painting. Latex caulk is easiest to use. All outer surfaces and entry areas of the bat house should be painted with at least two coats of exterior latex paint to prevent moisture, air leaks, and wood deterioration.
Certify Your Backyard as a Wildlife Sanctuary
After you have followed Sage’s How-to Attract Bats Guide and our other How to Attract Wildlife Guides to providing habitat to attract bats and other animals to your backyard, you can certify your backyard as a wildlife sanctuary. As long as you are providing the four basics for habitat specified in the Sage How-to Attract Wildlife Guides, including food, water, shelter and a place to live, you qualify.
Along with a personalized certificate, you will receive a Backyard Wildlife Habitat sign to post in your yard. This sign is a great way to show your neighbors and community that you’re working to attract bats and other wildlife, and provide a natural habitat for the animals that visit and live in your yard. Your backyard will also be entered in the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitat Sites.
For an application to certify your backyard as a wildlife sanctuary, please visit the National Wildlife Federation’s Application for Certification.
If you would like to Adopt Binky, the bat pictured at the beginning and end of this article, you can click on his picture to go to BatWorld Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Bat page. There you can adopt Binky, or select from a number of bats to sponsor, including Cleobatra and Rocky Batboa.
Please note that the pictures on this page are of a juvenile straw-colored flying fox. They do not live in North America, so if you build a bat house in North America, any bats that you attract will not look like the photos here.