Bat house help, please.
August 9, 2010 9:42 AM   Subscribe

We would like to build a bat house to control rampant and inexplicable mosquitoes. We would like your help, internet.

We live in Fort Collins, Colorado. It's been unusually wet here the last two summers, and we're overrun with mosquitoes in the backyard despite taking all the usual measures (can't say the same for our neighbors, though). A bat house seems like a good next step; we've seen bats in the neighborhood, so we know they're around. It would be great if some of them would come hang out in our immediate area. Problem: We know nothing about bats and the spaces they like, and there's a LOT of information on the web, most of which gets super-technical or super-woowoo very fast.

We need simple, novice-oriented instructions and information. To that end:

- What resources for bat-related information have you found helpful?
- Know of any good free, minimal-tools-needed plans available?
- Unexpected things we should think about? Stuff like looking into local regulations, potential downsides to having a bat colony, etc?
- Where should we install this thing? Trees, at the side of the house? Does it make a difference being at altitude?
- How do you get bats to show up once you give them a nice place to live?
- And finally, is this just eco-wishful thinking? Did you build a bat house, and did it actually help with your mosquitos?
posted by peachfuzz to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The first and last word on things bat-related is Bat Conservation International. They have bat house plans on their website. Disregard advice from other sources.

All that said, bats are a bit particular about their dwellings, and I know of folks who have built houses that the bats turned up their little bat noses at. They're more complicated than birdhouses, too. You would probably be just as well served to buy a pre-made bat house or two, and then follow the BCI advice on placement. If you're going to build one, it pretty much has to come out perfect. You can save time and effort, and not really spend any more cash, buy purchasing one.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:56 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and potential downsides are guano and the fact that people freak right out when they come across a downed bat (which can, but generally don't, carry rabies).
posted by mudpuppie at 9:57 AM on August 9, 2010

I love bats. Bats are our friends. I am always happy to see them around.

That said, if there are bats in your neighborhood, I am guessing they probably already come to eat in your yard. If you really want to get rid of mosquitoes, you might need to invest in one of those CO2/vacuum devices.

Bat houses, as is my understanding, are nice places for a bat or two to sleep for the day, but they aren't roosting places for whole communities of bats - which is what you want if you need to control your mosquitoes. You can't keep a bat colony like you could keep a beehive. Bat guano is messy and often toxic; bats can carry disease.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:58 AM on August 9, 2010

Three posts in a row. So sorry! I'll stop now, I promise.

I inadvertently left off a link. BCI sells bat houses, and they have a no-questions-asked return policy if your house fails to attract bats.

Okay, no more posts from me. Bye!
posted by mudpuppie at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2010

I had bats in the attic of my condo for the previous two summers; finally convinced my HOA to install bat houses in the neighborhood and get the critters out of my house. I don't know what style of house they ultimately built or bought, but I did some internet research to support my request. My preferred sources were: (Links to 20 free bat-house plans) (Plans, reasons why, directions, answers to your questions re: placement location, height, etc.) (More plans, more info, more answers to your questions)

The sites were all easy to comprehend to a complete beginner and provided enough information to sway the HOA in my favor.

To "invite" the bats to the houses, everything I've read suggests that the bats will simply find the house but that it may take some time and patience. As for downsides, be aware of guano issues (it smells and can carry disease), so place the house in a low-trafficked area away from the house. I'd also be wary of the bats leaving the bat house in favor of your people-house; check your house regularly to ensure they haven't moved into your attic, walls, garage, etc. Good luck!
posted by steeb2er at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2010

N-thing all advice re: guano. In short, don't mount the bat house on your house unless you're ok with prodigious amounts of guano on your brick (or siding).

Ditto for the rabies concerns. One set of instructions I saw for siting a bat house suggested a small fence around the base so that any pups which fell from the house would be separated from children or household pets.
posted by jquinby at 10:15 AM on August 9, 2010

I mentioned this in a mosquito thread a week or two ago, but my opinion is that it's a dicey proposition that the bats will come. I lived in Austin for a couple of years and we had a bat house that was properly sited, but in spite of the tons of mosquitoes we had, the bat house went completely unused. I think that bats are very finicky about where they decide to live and it's the luck of the draw whether you get any. Also as said above, you need a colony to have any appreciable effect on the mosquito population. I'd refer back to that thread from last week (probably via the tags, upper right) and keep working at other solutions in the meantime.
posted by crapmatic at 10:36 AM on August 9, 2010

According to the website of the American Mosquito Control Association (I know, I never heard of them either), bats don't provide especially good mosquito control, partly because mosquitoes are so small that it makes more sense for them to go after more nutritious prey like big fat moths. (I believe the figure quoted there is that mosquitoes comprise <1% of the gut contents of wild-caught bats.) The website doesn't cite sources, but also doesn't immediately appear to be selling anything, so draw your own conclusions about the reliability of the source.
posted by Bardolph at 11:32 AM on August 9, 2010

Hmmmm. So maybe not the silver bullet we thought...I had visions of swiftly efficient bringers of insect death. Must poke around more on the Bat Conservation site. Thanks so much for the help!
posted by peachfuzz at 3:21 PM on August 9, 2010

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