Right on the crack between September and October, something changes in the air. It gets just a little bit cooler, the leaves start to dry out, human skeletons proliferate and people everywhere install bathroom nightlights which they claim to be "for the benefit of the kids." Our avian friends are even more sensitive to the shift than we are they head for the southern hills when the first hint of sinister hits the autumn air, leaving hundreds of birdhouses unoccupied and cold. Meanwhile, millions of bats are left to huddle in caves and barns to brave the winter without so much as a hint of human compassion, and not even a birdhouse to keep them warm. These October icons deserve the same kind of star-treatment and luxurious housing we give to the birds, especially during their special month. Fortunately, it's both quick and easy to construct a bat box, and we've compiled these simple instructions.
The Benefits of Bat Keeping
If you suffer chiroptophobia, the irrational fear of bats, consider the benefits to keeping a bat house in your yard. For starters, bats are great for pest control. Every night, they crawl forth from their dwellings to swoop and flitter through the night, snatching and devouring hundreds of thousands of insects. The irony? These bats won't suck your blood, but they destroy the pesky mosquitoes that do. If you're still not convinced that you need a bat house, just take a good look at one of these furry creatures. Admit it: they are creepy, but also adorable.
What You'll Need to Get Started
- 23 x 8 piece of cedar wood
- 16 x 8 piece of cedar wood
- 13 x 8 piece of cedar wood
- 12 x 8 piece of cedar wood
- 7 x 8 piece of cedar wood
- Two 20 x 6 pieces of cedar wood
- 20 short nails
Building Your Bat Chateau
- Prepare the wood
The texture of your wood is important. If it is too smooth, the bats will not be able to grip the surface. Before you assemble the box, make sure the surfaces are textured. If you need to roughen them up a bit, course sandpaper will do the trick.
- Cut the wood
If you are using a power saw, take all the appropriate safety measures and wear safety goggles. The largest piece of wood (23 x 8 inches) serves as the back of the bat box. If you want a sloped roof for your bat box, mark the 20 x 6 slabs 4 inches from the top right corner and cut from the mark to the top left corner. Consider the mounting location before you construct the box so that you can install the appropriate fasteners in the back panel.
- Assemble the outside panels
Nail the box together with the 23 x 8 panel serving as the back, with the two 20 x 6 panels as the sides and the 20 x 8 panel as the front. If you are doing the sloped roof, make sure the pointed side of the 20 x 6 panels is flush with the top of the back panel. Align the front panel with the lower corner of the slope.
- Insert the inner panels
The last three slabs form the inner shelves and the roof. Attach the roof first, then insert the 13 X 8 panel about 2 inches in from the back panel and secure it with nails. The last panel goes in about 2 inches from the first panel and 2 inches from the front panel.
Tips and Tricks
Bats like dark, claustrophobic spaces that are warm and tight. Cedar is a great choice for the wood, as it keeps the box nice and insulated. Be as precise as possible with your measurements; you do not want to leave any gaps that will make the box drafty. Wind and cold airflow will discourage any homeless bats from taking up residence in your box. Do not paint your box bats may not like the scent.
It might take time before your homemade bat haven has any occupants. Despair not it can take a few weeks. As long as you have a healthy mosquito population nearby and you have placed your box at least 12 feet high and protected from the wind, it will only be a matter of time. By the time those cowardly birds come crawling back to their little birdhouses come springtime, your bats will be the envy of the block.