Backyard Bat Houses

Why would I want a bat house?


Bats are the most important controller of night-flying insects, including many agricultural pests. One small bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night!  Unfortunately, many bat species are disappearing at alarming rates.  Disturbance or destruction of roost sites due to development and vandalism constitute the greatest threat to the world’s bats.  Most bats living in Florida prefer to roost in mature trees, dead trees (snags), or in caves.  However, many bats take up residence in buildings, or other manmade structures, due to loss of habitat.  Bat houses provide alternative roost sites for Florida's colonial bat species.  A bat house in your backyard will offer local bats a much needed place to live.  They will also do you a return favor by helping to control the insects in the area. You can also help by supporting conservation organizations that protect natural areas. Protecting natural areas also provides natural habitat for Florida bat species that do not move into bat houses.




Can I build my own bat house?


If you would like to build your own bat house, you can obtain plans for a triple chambered bat house by clicking on Bat House Plans. .


Will bats move into my bat house?


Bat houses are becoming more successful in Florida.  Experience and research are helping us to improve the design and better understand where to locate them.  Unfortunately, there is no known way to attract bats to a bat house.  The best we can do is use a good design, place it in a good location, and hope the bats will find the bat house,  like it, and move in.


Where should I locate my bat house?


The species of bats that would most likely move into a bat house are typically colonial bats. These bats would normally roost in old dead trees or caves, but in urban areas they will move into manmade structures. These bats are gregarious by nature and like to squeeze closely together into tight crevices. They prefer their roosting quarters to be warm, safe from predators, and with a small amount of ventilation. Bat house designs attempt to provide these needs, but the bat house itself doesn’t attract bats. Bats need to discover it on there own. So, as a bat house owner you want to make your bat house as obvious as possible to bats and attempt to enhance its ability to meet their needs. Here are some suggestions. 


If you have bats in your area, observe their normal flight patterns and locate your bat house where the bats will most likely see it with their eyes, or discover the crevices with their sonar. By the way, larger bat houses seem to have a higher occupancy rate than smaller ones.


There are typically three alternatives for mounting a bat house: on a post, on the side of a building, or on a tree. For the average home owner, a post is likely the most desirable option. It provides a great deal of flexibility on where the house can be located. The second choice would be the side of a building. The only concern is that droppings may start showing up on the wall of the building and some folks find this objectionable. Bat houses mounted on trees seem to have the lowest occupancy rate of the three choices. If a bat house is located on a tree, it should be oriented in a way that keeps branches from obstructing the entrance, and allows as much sunlight on the bat house as possible.


Experience indicates that the bat species which will move into bat houses prefer warm roosting sites, so locate your bat house where it will get at least six hours of sunlight. In Florida, this is not as critical as up north, but you should avoid areas that are shaded during much of the day. This may be one of the reasons that houses mounted on live trees do not do as well. Dead trees don’t have this problem.


The bat house should be located at least ten foot above the ground. Bats have moved into lower roosts, but statistics indicate the higher the bat house is mounted, the greater the chance it will become occupied.


Bat houses located on a dock, or on the edge of a lake, pond, or other open fresh water body are often occupied in a few months.  If possible, locate the bat house within a quarter mile of open fresh water. Bats will usually fly to a fresh water lake or pond to drink before they begin to forage. They fly close to the surface and lap up the water as they pass over it. Many home owners don’t have control over this factor. If there is water in your area, it is a plus, but the lack of it does not mean you won’t get bats in your bat house. 


Be patient. Although we have reports of bats moving into a bat house within a few weeks, it often takes a few years before bats move in.




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