How to Attract Bats to Reduce Unwanted Flying Insects in Your Yard

How to Attract Bats to Reduce Unwanted Flying Insects in Your Yard

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  1. Photo by Rosanne Salvatore / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

    You may be thinking, “Why would anyone want to attract bats? They’re just flying rats, after all. And don’t they spread rabies like crazy? Yuck, they’re disgusting, vile little things, possibly tiny minions of Satan. They attract witches, don’t they? (Or do witches attract bats? I always get those mixed up.) They’ll get caught in my hair because they’re blind and can’t see where they’re going, then they’ll bite me and I’ll get cholera or West Nile Virus or Ebola and I’ll die!”

    Seriously, if you think like that you’re either in need of a reality check or a vacation in the tropics… where the bats grow huge and are called “flying foxes”, perhaps because they eat chickens and small children (actually, flying foxes are fruit bats; they eat fruit, not to mention that their faces look like foxes—hence the name—and they are rather attractive animals, so quit believing everything you see in Spielberg/Lucas movies).


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    Do you enjoy the presence of thousands of mosquitoes, moths and other nocturnal flying pests in your yard on warm summer nights? If you said yes, you need to consult someone of the psychiatric persuasion; but if you said no, and you have a problem with mosquitoes, then you definitely need a bat or two in your yard. Did you know that a single bat can eat one mosquito every ten seconds? That’s six per minute, or 600 in an hour, or over 7,000 in a single night.

    Now do you want bats in your yard? I thought you did.

    As for your initial objections…  Bat’s are not rodents, and therefore are not related to rats. Rabies is rare among bats; less than half a percent (one in two-hundred) are likely to carry the disease. Yes, some bats are pretty scary looking, and I can’t dispel the notion that they are minions of Satan; however, I’ve known a few bats in my time and I’ve never known one to hang with demons. Bats do not attract witches, though witches sometimes attract bats due to a shared fondness for flying insects. While experts say that bats don’t get tangled in people’s hair, my mom insists it happened to her, and I’ve never known her to lie (though, when I was young, she did have a maddening habit of not explaining why I shouldn’t do something she told me not to do and instead simply said in reply to my question of why I shouldn’t do it, “Because I said so,” which still annoys me when I think about it); these incidences are very rare, if they happen at all. Bats are not blind; they may not have eagle vision, but they all see better than my wife does when she isn’t wearing her glasses. Bats do not spread diseases; in fact, they lower the incidences of diseases by eating bugs that do carry them, such a West Nile Virus and malaria, both carried by mosquitoes (and both rather rare in the United States but on the rise).


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    Attracting bats is quite simple: get yourself a bat house; just be careful where you put it. For instance, don’t place it near a busy road where evening motorists will wind up using their wipers to remove the bats from their windshields. Place your bat house where it will get plenty of morning light but no afternoon light (for those of you who can’t figure this out, that means on the east side of your house or out-building). Don’t mount them on a tree unless it will get good sun exposure until around noon. Place it somewhere out of the wind if possible and near some source of water (a birdbath will do nicely, but a swimming pool will suffice). And for God’s sake, do not place a sheet of shiny metal under the bat house to gather the fallen guano (which is highly acidic and will kill plants, by the way); light reflecting off the metal at midday will get into the bat house, and they don’t like a lot of light while sleeping (I mean really, who does?).

    You can buy bat houses at most hardware or home improvement stores, but most of them are shoddily made. Here’s what to look for:

    • A multi-chamber box
    • Rough interior surfaces, especially the ceiling (if they’re smooth, the bats can’t cling)
    • A protected roof, preferably with shingles
    • Tight seams; bats don’t like well-ventilated homes; the house should have a single vent slit low on the front wall, because they do need some air
    • A painted exterior; bats like a fancy dwelling; also, pain prevents weathering and keeps the walls from warping, which leads to the previously mentioned undesirable ventilation
    • An open bottom design; bats aren’t birds and they don’t want a big hole staring them in the face while they hang upside down and sleep

    If you would rather not paint your bat house, just seal it with a good wood seal and it should last for decades with some care.

    Be good to your bats and they’ll be good to you; they might even stay out of your hair. For the bat house of your dreams, your best bet may be to make your own. Several websites have free design schematics you can easily follow at home, and the materials are inexpensive (just Google “bat houses”). The payoffs are fewer bothersome bugs and frequent opportunities to either watch your kids enjoy observing the fabulous flying critters (“Look, Daddy… bats!”) or the fun of watching them shriek and run away from the bats in horror (“Oh my God, Daddy—bats!”).

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