Bats may have a reputation for being creepy and scary, but the truth is that they’re an incredibly important part of any region’s ecosystem. They eat tons of bugs, including pesky mosquitoes and other biting insects, they can help pollinate flowers, and their excrement is one of the best garden fertilizers around.
If you want bats in your neighborhood, buying and setting up a bat house on your property is a great first step. However, bat houses aren’t necessarily an “if you build it, they will come” proposition. How can you attract bats to your new bat house? Here are six helpful tips.
1. Put it up in early spring.
Bats hibernate throughout the winter, but when they wake up in the spring, they’re on the lookout for a cozy spot to roost for the season. If your brand new bat house is waiting for them, they’re more likely to choose to live in it.
2. Hang it high.
Bats are creatures of the sky: they fly in it, and they live in it. A bat house that’s at least ten feet off the ground is going to be most appealing to these flying furry creatures. If you’ve got a tall sturdy pole on which to mount it, that’s perfect. The side of your home on its highest floor is also a good option, though you’ll want to make sure you hang the bat house away from any openings where bats could get into your house.
3. Avoid installing it in a tree.
Hanging a bat house in a tree may seem like a good solution, but it’s not always the best way to attract bats. That’s because trees are also a favorite hangout spot for owls and hawks, both of which are bats’ natural predators. Sure, some bats may live in a bat house in a tree, but you’re likely to have better luck attracting bats if you mount it somewhere else.
4. Face it toward the sun.
Like humans, cats, and most other mammals (yes, bats are mammals), bats prefer a warm house. So, hanging your bat house in a spot where it will get at least ten hours of sun exposure will help boost its population. The only exception to this tip is if you live in a very warm climate (with summer temperatures regularly over 100 degrees), in which case, full sun exposure may warm your bat house too much. In these cases, western or eastern exposure is a better bet.
5. Make sure there’s water nearby.
Bats prefer to have a water source near their home. If there’s a pond on your property, or if you live within a quarter mile of a lake, that’s perfect. But if you don’t, simply putting in something like a birdbath or small outdoor water feature will do the trick. Just be sure to keep them filled.
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6. Have plants.
Bats also like to live near plants: flowers, trees, shrubs, and so on. If you live in a relatively new development that lacks mature vegetation, consider starting a garden. You’ll create more attractive real estate for bats, and you’ll get flowers or vegetables as a bonus.
If you’ve got more insects than you’d like swarming in your yard, or if you just like sitting out at twilight and watching bats flit through the sky, consider investing in a bat house — for their comfort and for yours. Then, follow our six tips to establish a small bat population right in your own backyard.