In 2004, a Green Center volunteer installed the first bat house in our wetland. This bat house, damaged by weather, was replaced with a new one in 2008.
The Green Center's bat house is located atop a pole on the northern edge of the wetland. The house is protected from climbing predators, like raccoons, by an aluminum strip mounted below. The house is painted black to retain the greatest amount of interal heat, which bats love.
Our snow-covered wetlands may not seem like the ideal time or place for bats, which vacate bat houses to migrate or hibernate elsewhere during winter. But their house has 3 things going for it: location, location, location. In spring and summer, the bat house will get full sun 6 to 8 hours a day. It faces south-southeast and is well away from tree branches and other obstacles. It is near fresh water, so the dehydrated bats can skim the water surface for a drink while in flight, right after they emerge from their house at dusk to go hunt for night-flying insects. The wetlands and surrounding open spaces will supply the bats with prime real estate for hunting.
Midwestern bats' favorite foods are soft-bodied insects like mosquitoes and moths. A single bat eats about half its body weight in insects every night! They are the only major predator of night-flying insects, each bat consumes up to 600 mosquitoes an hour. Our wetland plants will also benefit from the fertilizing effect of bat droppings (called "guano"). If our house contains even one bat, we will derive great benefits!
You may wonder about risks bats may pose.
There is a higher percentage of rabies in skunks, and even higher in domesticated horses and dogs. However, you should not handle any wild or unfamiliar animal.
West Nile Virus is transmitted through being bitten by an infected mosquito. The fact that bats eat mosquitoes does not mean that bats carry or transmit the West Nile Virus.
In fact, bats can detect and avoid a single human hair.
Bats see and hear very well, plus have a keen sense of echolocation.
You have to travel thousands of miles from the Midwest, to Latin America, to encounter Vampire Bats.
Decreasing pesticide use and preserving habitat are the best things you can do for bats. You may want to build or buy a bat house for yourself and install it before early March. You can learn more about bats and attracting them to your yard by contacting these organizations and their Websites: Missouri Department of Conservation, Saint Louis Zoo, and Bat Conservation International.