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Going to bat against bugs


bats flying around a pole mounted bat house at nightNatural biological insect control is a safe and effective method of controlling unwanted insects. Evidence suggests that a typical bat colony can make a significant difference as part of a natural biological insect control program.

"In one summer season," explains Dr. John Whitaker, professor of life sciences at Indiana State University, "the 150 bats of an average Midwestern maternity colony of big brown bats can easily eat 16,000 June bugs, along with 38,000 cucumber beetles, 19,000 stinkbugs, and 30,000 leafhoppers. These estimates are very conservative and do not include the many other insects eaten."

To start or nuture a bat colony, look for evidence of bats already roosting nearby. There is a good chance of enticing the mammals to new bat houses if they already live, or are attempting to live, in nearby buildings.

And why wouldn't they? Bats generally thrive in areas where there is a mixture of natural vegetation, and where there's plenty of direct exposure to sun and water nearby.

To attract bats, follow these guidelines from The Bat Builder's Handbook, a publication of Bat Conservation International, Inc. [(800) 538-2287 or http://www.batcon.org.]

  • To build a bat house, use a combination of exterior grade plywood and cedar. Don't use pressure-treated wood. Be sure to caulk all seams.
  • Bat houses should be at least two feet tall, 14 or more inches wide, with a three- to six-inch landing area that extends below the entrance.
  • A number of roosting chambers will work, but having more is preferable.
  • Place roost partitions 3/4 to one inch apart.
  • Roughen all landing areas. Scratch wood surfaces horizontally or cover them with durable plastic screening.
  • Build vents six inches from the bottoms of all houses.
  • Remove wasp nests in late winter or early spring before wasps or bats return.
  • Build or buy open-bottomed houses so birds, mice, squirrels and parasites are less likely to set up camp, and eliminate guano accumulation.
  • If the area gets average high temperatures in July of 80 degrees or less, bat houses should get at least 10 hours of sun and should be painted black.

bat houseIf the average high temperatures in July average less than 100 degrees, but more than 80 degrees, six hours of less direct sunlight per day is needed. In the 85 to 95 degree range, paint the bat house dark brown or gray. If area July temperatures are around 95 to 100 degrees, paint the bat house medium or light colors.

Mount the houses on poles or wooden or stone buildings, preferably under eaves. Bats take twice as long to locate houses on trees and do not like roosting in houses attached to metal siding.

Mount houses at least 12 feet from the ground.

To protect bats from predators, install the houses 20 to 25 feet from the nearest obstacle. although it is not safe for the bats, they find houses more quickly along forest or water edges where they often fly.

Do not locate the houses near bright lights.

After following all of these steps, if problems persist in attracting bats to houses, experiment. Move houses into more or less direct sunlight.

Pick a site within a quarter-mile of water.

Bat houses are available from Southern States by special order.


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