Be the Frank Lloyd Wright for flying mice
For more than a decade, the global population of bats has been crashing. Some of this can be blamed on the usual suspects: climate change, habitat encroachment, food source depletion.
And to a lesser extent, Wesley Snipes
There?s also a mysterious disease called white nose syndrome ? not a euphemism for cocaine use ? that kills by the tens of thousands; driving bats to do crazy things like leave their winter hibernation in broad daylight and never return to the protection of their lair.
Smart people are working on the perils of white nose syndrome, and in some areas have made headway. More smart people have warned us about the other factors killing bats ? the same global factors that pose a danger to us ? so if we haven?t listened to them by now? big shrug, I guess? We made this cave, we have to sleep in our own guano now.
Because it?s a bat made from a toilet paper roll, that?s why
While we watch the world burn, we can at least do it with less mosquitoes. And that?s something bats can help with. Bats are amazing at pest control, and building up their habitat can help, in a small way, to recover some of their numbers while reducing pests without pesticides.
This Old Bat House
Below is how I constructed a gothic bat abode for the last of the bats to ride out the oncoming apocalypse in style. I?m no Property Brethren, so if you take inspiration from this, it may be worth consulting at least one other source for tips ? for what it?s worth I built my bat house based on info from three different sources.
Cedar is the best wood for a bat house. Rough wood is best ? if it?s smooth, you?ll need to rough it up or add mesh to the interior so the bats have something to grip. I chose to get rough wood and score it up even more rather than add in meshing that might rust or tear away.
There?s no exact rule on dimensions, but generally, you want it to be wide and shallow; like a flat box.
Batgirl models the depth of the chamber for this, um, Bat? cave
Using a makeshift tool, I roughed up the interior even more. This should give the bats a lot of footholds. The cedar is soft enough that dragging the tool across the boards with a little pressure makes a good indentation. Just imagine you?re scratching out the eyes of whoever limited The Originals to six seasons.
When it was finally time to start screwing all the pieces together, I was sure to drill guide holes to prevent the boards from splitting. To avoid rust, I used exterior deck screws. I also wood glued every inch of the damn thing before screwing. This, I was told by better minds, is because bats are disgusting creatures that do not like ventilation and would rather smell their own filth than a fresh breeze. But also they eat mosquitoes so weigh that.
This next part was not intuitive: a bar of some sort to keep predators from getting up into the bat house. Basically, you want to make the opening even more narrow.
Note that the rough sides of the cedar boards are all facing inside.
And finally, a roof. This I made sure was scored up even more than the walls so that there were extra footholds for the flittermouses.
Most guides urge a sloped roof or a shingled roof. I did not do this because I had other plans and was willing to take on the risk of a flat roof for the payoff.
We could be done here. We should be done here. But I?d be letting the bats down if I stopped here, wouldn?t I?
Flip or Flap Flap Flap?
A bat house is nice, it will meet the basic needs. But it?s not going to increase property values the way we want in the bat neighborhood. For that we need something more regal.
We need a bat castle.
I began with an building block set stolen from some kid who?s wasn?t going to be a STEM superstar anyway.
These were all glue, no screw.
Stain was needed, and I wasn?t going to use a brush on all those small corners and details; I?ve got podcasts to listen to! So I sought out the one spray-stain I could find and worked it like a slightly-less-anonymous Banksy.
Relax, this was just the first coat
Important: don?t stain or paint the inside of your bat house. Bats are tasteless creatures who loathe adornment like paint as much as they loathe a gentle breeze.
But for real, they won?t live there if it?s painted/stained; leave the interior bare.
It occurred to me that the bats might not know the house was for them; so I painted their symbol on the front. Just so we are all clear.
Closing in on it, I stained the pole (I used a 12′ pole) and attached the house. I chose to use these L brackets and screw right through the back of the bat house, adding some scrap board on the interior for the screws to bite into. The other option was to use bolts, but I?ll be damned if I was making yet another trip to the hardware store on behalf of flying rats that have toxic poop.
Where to place the bat house seems to be a matter of some debate online. Most commenters seem to want a warm place, so, at least in northern climates, a place with lots of sun. That sounds reasonable but is at odds with the observable world where bats seem to live in trees in my neck of the woods. Even so, I placed mine where it would at least get afternoon sun, and I stained it with a darker stain so it would absorb some heat.
I dug a hole just shy of 3′ to support to pole. No fancy class 5 or sand. Just insert the pole like it?s prom night, keep a level on it, and pack the dirt back in.
And that?s how you make a bat house, a bat home.
I?m told that it?s best to erect a bat house in the early spring, because bats like to take up residence in the late spring and early summer. I wasn?t quite so on the ball ? Toothpickings Towers didn?t have its ribbon cutting until June, but I don?t mind letting it sit vacant for a bit.
Of course, you don?t have to go to as much trouble as I did. You can head down to your nearest bat sheltering store and pick up a pre-fab bat house.
It?ll save you a lot of time, but will it have the same style?
For more information on the risks facing bats, see Bats Without Borders. To see how the guano would hit the fan if bats were to disappear, check out this summary.
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(I?m really tired of googling ?bat house? and having google derisively suggest ?don?t YOU mean ?bath house??? because Google knows my search history)
Image Sources: New Line Cinema, Canbum.net, my phone.