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Build a bat box and help keep the mosquito population down!


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#1 CatsAndBats

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Posted 15 April 2017 - 10:40 AM

A single bat can eat upwards of 1000 bugs an hour. So help them roost!

 

Build a Bat House

Photos and story by Carla Brown, NWF Web Producer

I love bats because mosquitoes LOVE to bite me. Pesticides can be harmful to mosquitoes’ predators as well as mosquitoes. According to Bat Conservation International, one little brown bat can eat 60 medium-sized moths or over 1000 mosquito-sized insects in one night!

Bats are also interesting because:

  • In many ecosystems, they play a key role in pollinating plants.
  • There are more than 1,300 species of bats in the world!
  • Some bats use echolocation, or high pitched chirps which bounce off objects in front of them, to find their way in the dark.

Before I share my bat house building experience, let me say that I am no carpenter. This was my first time using a circular saw. Hopefully this can help even the least handy person build a bat house.

 Why Build a Bat House?

You might be surprised: bats don't always live in caves. Some bats spend winter months in caves, but most bats spend summers in trees, under bridges or in old buildings, where they give birth and rear young.

Your goal is to make a bat house that mimics the space between bark and a tree trunk. That would be the bats' ideal nursery. That's why the space inside a bat house is very narrow, unlike a bird house which would house a nest. Bats like tight spaces. They also need it nice and warm for the babies. That's why we paint the box a dark color in most climates and why we caulk the sides to keep the heat in. Also, you'll be using a saw to rough up inside the box. That makes it more like tree bark and easier for the bats to climb up.

You might wonder why you need to build a bat house. Why can't the bats just find a nice tree? That is the challenge for many bat species as forests are cleared. Ideally they would live in a natural home but we build bat houses to help those who can't find space in a forest.

A bat house is also is a great way to provide cover for wildlife, as well as a place for wildlife to raise young--two components of becoming a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat site

How to Build a Bat House

First I printed the Small Economy Bat House plan (pdf) from Bat Conservation International's website. (They also have a Bat House Builder’s Handbook available for free in a digital version on their bat house pages.) The big surprise was that this bat house ended up being bigger than I expected: two feet wide and almost three feet tall! According to their website, a successful bat house can be smaller (14 inches wide instead of 24 inches wide), but this one was designed to easily use up a 2 foot by 4 foot piece of plywood with fewer cuts.

That was not how I had pictured a bat house. Have you ever seen bat houses for sale that are smaller or shaped like a bird house? I have. That just means those houses were made by people less acquainted with bat needs.

I read over the plan and I found that I needed a location with:

  • lots of sun;
  • at least 15 feet off the ground (to protect against predators); and
  • ideally a water source nearby (so the mother bat doesn't have to leave her young for too long).

Interestingly, bats are less attracted to bat houses mounted on trees. There's a few reasons for this:

  • It's too easy for predators to get bats as they exit
  • The branches causing obstructions to exiting bats which drop down then up into flight
  • It's too shady from branches above.

Bat houses mounted on buildings retain heat better and are less accessible to predators. You can put them on a pole though. Luckily my townhouse is three stories high and has a sunny side. It's also near a stream. So I felt I probably had a good site.

 Supplies Needed to Build a Bat House

The supplies on the Bat Conservation International plan are:

  • 1/4 sheet ( 2' x 4' ) 1/2" AC, BC, or T1-11 (outdoor grade) plywood. DO NOT use pressure treated wood.
  • One piece 1" x 2" (3/4" x 1 1/2" finished) x 8' pine
  • 20-30 1 1/4" coated deck or exterior-grade Phillips screws
  • One pint dark, water-based stain, exterior-grade
  • One pint water-based primer, exterior-grade
  • One quart flat water-based paint or stain, exterior-grade
  • One tube paintable latex caulk
  • 1" x 3" x 28" board for roof (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Black asphalt shingles or galvanized metal (optional)
  • 6-10 7/8" roofing nails (optional)
Tools Needed to Build a Bat House
  • Table saw or handsaw
  • Caulking gun
  • Variable speed reversing drill
  • Paintbrushes
  • Phillips bit for drill
  • Tape measure or yardstick
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Staple gun (optional)

For those of you who do not normally buy wood, here are some tips:

  • Try to purchase Forest Stewardship Council certified wood and/or recycle scrap wood.
  • When you buy a piece of wood that is advertised as 1 inch by 2 inches, it is not actually that big when you measure it. It's more like 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inches. That was important for me to know because it allowed me to use scrap wood for part of the project.

The supply list in the bat house plan was very helpful, but I would add:

  • Two clamps for clamping wood while you saw or drill
  • Safety glasses for when you use power tools
  • A small broom for sweeping sawdust

Also, the bat house plan calls for paint. I didn't know what color and initially I thought white to match my house trim. But then I checked their website and they have a map where you look up what color to paint your bat house. For my area, I need dark brown or gray.

Building the House Step 1: Wood Cutting (30 minutes) 

Measure and mark where you need to cut the wood according to the plan. Clamp it down to a sturdy spot for safety. You cannot safely hold the wood and the circular saw. Adjust the blade to the correct depth depending on the width of your wood. It takes only five cuts. Don't forget your safety glasses.

At this point, I took the wood and laid it together to get a sense of how this was going to look. You'll see that the bottom piece is the biggest. The 1X2 inch pieces form the sides of the bat house and then there are two smaller pieces of plywood on top. The gap between those two is a ventilation slot.

Step 2: Putting grooves on the back piece (2 hours) 

This was the most difficult part of making the bat house, but it's the most important. The goal is take the plywood, which is very smooth, and roughen it up to provide places for the bat to crawl up into the house. The instructions said that you can do this by cutting grooves into the wood. Another option is to find sturdy plastic mesh and staple it along the backboard. I chose to cut grooves because I think it will look better and also if I was a bat looking for a tree, I might not be attracted to a lot of plastic. But both options apparently work.

The instructions say that the grooves need to be about a half inch apart, so I measured and marked where I thought the grooves should go.

When it came time to cut the grooves, what I found challenging was that I didn't know what type of tool to use.

Since at first I was shy about using the circular saw, I tried to use a hand saw. After 30 minutes and only three grooves, I realized I would have to rely on technology.

I set the circular saw to only 1/16 of an inch, reclamped the plywood and started cutting grooves into the backboard. They were not always perfectly straight lines, but that's not important because trees do not have perfectly straight grooves either.

Once I had cut grooves over the whole backboard with the circular saw, I took my hand saw and deepened some of the grooves. I did this because I was not sure if the circular saw went deeply enough and also to roughen it up even further.

Step 3: Staining inside the bat house (1 hour) 

Bats like it dark inside their houses so it's important to stain all inside parts a dark color. First you have to sweep all the sawdust carefully from the backboard, especially from the grooves that you cut.

I chose a walnut stain because it was the darkest one at the store. It's important to use stain rather than paint because paint would fill in the grooves you just cut. Stain just soaks into the wood nicely.

It only takes two coats of the stain, and the stain dries fast if you are making your bat house outside in the sun.

Step 4: Caulking and screwing on the sides (30 minutes) 

If you are going to use plastic mesh to help the bats climb inside your bat house, now is the time when you would staple it on. Make sure it hangs all the way down to the "landing pad" area so bats have something to grab on to.

Before adding the side pieces, apply caulk. This seals the bat house to help keep the heat inside. Baby bats need a warm home - reaching 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in July.

Next you use your power drill to attach on the side pieces. Since these pieces are rather narrow, they can easily split. A way to avoid splitting is to pre-drill the holes with a drill bit that is smaller than the size of your screw. Then, when you drill in the screws, they go in much easier and your wood stays whole.

Step 5: Caulking and screwing on the top pieces (30 minutes) 

Next, attach the top two pieces of plywood. First caulk to ensure a snug fit. Then follow the same advice for drilling and attach the larger of the two top pieces.

Before you attach the smaller of the two pieces, measure to make sure your ventilation slot is about half an inch.

Step 6: Caulking the sides and adding the roof (15 minutes) 

To ensure there are no gaps between all these pieces of wood where heat could escape, leaving our poor bats shivering in the cold, put some caulk all around the sides in any gaps that you see.

Finally, add a piece of wood to the top to form a roof.

Step 7: Priming and painting the bat house (variable given paint drying time)

Finally, we need to ensure the bathouse lasts a long time so we prime and paint it. We prime it with an exterior primer that discourages the growth of any plants or mold. Here I am applying the primer. Next I painted four layers of dark paint - in my case it was dark brown.

Writer’s Note: I have to be honest with you: I built this bat house when I had little babies, and as any young mother knows, hanging a bat house doesn’t really reach the top of the “to-do” list. So I gave the bat house to a friend at the National Wildlife Federation in the hopes it might get put up here. Unfortunately we don’t know what happened to it. We looked all over, but it’s now been six years and there’s no sign of it. So, here is how you SHOULD mount your new bat house!

Step 8: Mount the Bat House (20 minutes)

Bat houses should be mounted on poles or buildings, which provide the best protection from predators. Wood or stone buildings with good solar exposure are excellent choices, and locations under the eaves often have been successful. All bat houses should be mounted at least 12 feet above ground; 15 to 20 feet is better.

I hope you enjoy building your bat house, whether it's in celebration of bats at Halloween or any time of the year. Remember, once you put up the bat house, it may take a few years for a bat to find it. They will come looking in the spring time, so ideally it should be hung by late winter.

 

Found here: http://www.nwf.org/G...-Bat-House.aspx

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Here's one out of a re-purposed pallet:

 

http://www.instructa...claimed-Pallet/


Edited by CatsAndBats, 15 April 2017 - 01:11 PM.

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#2 Arathu

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Posted 17 April 2017 - 11:41 PM

Now I have to take a picture of my bat house.............hahahahaha......you gotta quit spying on me Cat-Bat-Whatever Else SPS called you..................... :biggrin:

 

A



#3 Juthro

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 12:29 AM

Does anyone besides me wonder if Cat has ever got the bat box, and the cat box mixed up?........


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#4 Pan1

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 12:36 AM

thanks for sharing cat, ive seen these at peoples cottages, and in some of the government parks here. sadly i have no place to put one, but cool how to.


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#5 CatsAndBats

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 07:45 AM

Does anyone besides me wonder if Cat has ever got the bat box, and the cat box mixed up?........

 

 

ewww



#6 Skywatcher

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 08:22 AM

I built a bat house 2 years ago, and put it in the corner of the top south side of the house, about 17 feet up. I see bats all spring, summer and fall, swooping over the pond and the yard gathering their evening meals, but have yet to have any take up residence.

I am assuming they are quite content wherever they presently roost and have not been interested in new digs.


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#7 Arathu

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 10:57 PM

I built a massive bat box and put it 15 feet up in the air on posts..........and still they live in my attic......

 

so I don't really have the heart to kick them out yet.......

 

cause me and skeeters have a conflict goin on.......and bats are KEWL!

 

A


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#8 Alder Logs

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:15 AM

I was hired to build one once, after I was hired to seal the guy's attic. 

 

I get bats in this cabin very often.  I have done everything I can to find where they get in.  I don't want my cat catching them (he hasn't yet as far as I know).  The problem is, they fly up to the widow over my pillow and drop, turn, and swoop, trying to establish a new glide, sometimes landing on my face while I sleep.  I consider that a rude awakening.   I have a butterfly net that I catch them with after they wake me up.  As soon as I wake up I slam the loft door as fast as I can.  Then I turn on the light and start trying to catch the bat in mid air with the net.  Once I get it, I take it downstairs and put it out the door.   By then, I am wide awake.  I gotta figure out where they are getting in.


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#9 Juthro

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:46 AM

We do have some bats in Alaska, but most of them get eaten by mosquitos while still young.....

 

post-136504-0-91623800-1492580796.jpg

Friehauf_Alaska_camp_1.jpg


Edited by Juthro, 19 April 2017 - 12:47 AM.

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#10 mjroom

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 01:10 AM

a lactating brown bat will eat her own weight in insects every night. Bats make great neighbors they never bother anybody. In most cities there are more bats than birds and most people have never ever seen a bat.

 

http://www.batmanage...s/batmotel.html

https://www.flmnh.uf....php/bats/home/



#11 CatsAndBats

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 08:03 AM

One way bat door installation.

 

Original here:  http://wiatri.net/in...atExclusion.pdf

 

Downloadable: Attached File  BatExclusion.pdf   933.98KB   15 downloads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gallery_147940_1513_11348.jpg


Edited by CatsAndBats, 19 April 2017 - 08:04 AM.


#12 Arathu

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 08:21 AM

I'm thinking of encouraging them in the attic and putting a guano catch system so I can trade the stuff with the pot farmers out there...................

 

Bats used to scare the shit out of me for no good reason at all..........another of those programmed responses from the "learned" folks around me...........

 

Now I understand that what I'm feeling is SPIRIT...........we're connected....................

 

I have a fujara flute that I made (with help from some cool folks online) It is a traditional Slovak Shepherd Flute and functions in overtones.........

 

If you make a hard blast of air into the mouthpiece it will range above human hearing.......when I do.......the Bats go crazy and answer..........

 

Did I mention that I was strange.................. :biggrin: 

 

You can also sing into it while playing and in that way chords can be formed. I have a large hollowed out maple tree that died before I moved into my place........

 

They answer from it too......I've seen my little brown friends flying around this year so I know we still have some.......

 



#13 Alder Logs

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 08:55 AM

The series of rabies shots scares the shit out of me.   Bats, as much as I like them, are the main source of the disease in these parts.  At least that's what my vet told me recently.  

 

It's probably been almost two weeks since my last rude awakening.

 

The thing that bothers me about the one-way bat door is that any baby bats are left to starve.


Edited by Alder Logs, 19 April 2017 - 08:59 AM.


#14 CatsAndBats

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 09:08 AM

The series of rabies shots scares the shit out of me.   Bats, as much as I like them, are the main source of the disease in these parts.  At least that's what my vet told me recently.  

 

It's probably been almost two weeks since my last rude awakening.

 

 

Four shots isn't so bad (from here: https://www.drugs.com/mcd/rabies )

 

 

 

Treatment for people bitten by animals with rabies

If you've been bitten by an animal that is known to have rabies, you'll receive a series of shots to prevent the rabies virus from infecting you. If the animal that bit you can't be found, it may be safest to assume that the animal has rabies. But this will depend on several factors, such as the type of animal and the situation in which the bite occurred.

Rabies shots include:

  • A fast-acting shot (rabies immune globulin) to prevent the virus from infecting you. Part of this injection is given near the area where the animal bit you if possible, as soon as possible after the bite.
  • A series of rabies vaccines to help your body learn to identify and fight the rabies virus. Rabies vaccines are given as injections in your arm. You receive four injections over 14 days.

 

I think there's an oral treatment too.


Edited by CatsAndBats, 19 April 2017 - 09:08 AM.





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