Why would I want a bathouse?
Bats are the most important controller of night-flying insects, including many agricultural pests that devastate crops. One small bat (there can be 100+ bats in a bat house depending on the size of the house) can eat up to 1,000 insects in a night! Unfortunately, many bat populations are disappearing at alarming rates due to habitat loss. Most bats living in Florida prefer to roost in mature trees, dead trees (called snags), or in caves. However, many bats take up residence in buildings, or other manmade structures, due destruction of their habitats. Bathouses provide much needed alternative roost sites for Florida’s bats. A bathouse in your backyard will offer your local bats a much needed place to live. They will also do you a return favor by helping to control the insects in your area. Here at Lubee we have several bat houses on property.
Where should I locate my BatHouse?
Placement of the bathouse will be important in attracting bats to the new house. While observing the bats on your property, take note of their flight patterns and place the bathouse in an open area where they will be able to notice it. A larger bat house seems to have a higher occupancy rate compared to smaller houses.
Bats prefer their roosting quarters to be warm, safe from predators, and with proper ventilation. Bathouse designs attempt to make a perfect provision of these needs, but the house itself will not attract the bats. The bats in north-central FL are attracted to areas that have open spaces near forest edges & accessible water sources.
At Lubee, we recommend placing bathouses on a pole or side of a building facing southeast and at least 10 to 20 feet above the ground and have a 20 foot clearance around from branches or wires, which aerial predators could sit upon. The bat house should be placed where it will receive at a minimum 6 hours of sunlight. Make sure that the pole is well anchored into the ground with concrete that will support the weight of the house. Avoid placing the house near bright lights and heavy human activity areas. Be sure to have a metal guard around the pole (similar to a squirrel guard placed on birdfeeders) to deter snakes (we have plenty of rat snakes here in FL that can climb) and other predators.
Another option for placing a bathouse on a pole, is mounting two houses back-to-back on the pole, see picture above. One house should face Northwest and the other Southeast. This allows for more available space on one pole. The houses should be 3/4-inches apart and covered with a roof to protect the roosting space from the elements.
Placing a bathouse on a building made of wood, brick or stone, is a good option for heat absorption. Also placing the bat house under eaves of a building has proven to be successful in attracting bats. Do not place the bat house over windows, doors, or walkways, for the guano will start to collect. Bat urine can stain the building and the area below the house. Not to mention the smell that will start to accumulate. Bats will defecate and urinate prior to every flight.
What Maintenance does the bathouse need?
When building your own bathouse, a light brown stain should be used in South Florida and a dark brown stain for North Florida houses. A black stain is not recommended in Florida due to heat retention, making the house an undesirable temperature, but can be used on bathouses located in the Northern states. The temperature within the house should be between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Proper maintenance of your bat house is important. Wasps and mud daubers can be a problem before any bats ever have the chance of fully occupying the house. To help reduce the risk of a wasp nest being built, placing the roosting spacers ¾” apart will reduce the possibility of a nest being built. Should a wasp nest or mud dauber tubes be created, they should be removed in late winter or early spring when the wasps will be less active or have left their nests, and before the bats return to the area. You will need to check the house yearly, to remove any nests and to check for any repairs needed, i.e., new caulking of the seams or staining to seal the wood. Remember that any repairs or cleaning should be performed when the bats are not roosting. It is illegal in Florida to remove bats from their houses during the dates of April 15th to Aug 15th. This is due to the moms nursing their pups and any disturbances can disrupt this maternal bond.
GUANO & Safety
If you are thinking about collecting the guano for fertilizer in your gardens or flower beds, do not use a bucket or any deep container. Should a baby bat fall from the house, they will become trapped with no way out. Using a shallow container, like a long flower pot tray, or a potted plant are two very good options to collect and maintain the guano collecting process. Remember to use a shovel and wear gloves when you are collecting and mixing the guano to help reduce the risk of coming in contact with the microorganisms that are living in the feces.
Properly educating any children or adults that will be coming in contact with the house is important to everyone’s health. The children/adults should know to never touch any bats or guano without gloves. Should a bat be found on the ground, it could be ill. Call your local County Animal Control for removal/advice.