They're often depicted as menaces, nocturnal cave dwellers that swarm unsuspecting wanderers.
However, it's not what bats do that should have us frightened, but rather what is happening to bat populations in Eastern Canada. As of December 2014, three species of bats were added to the list of species found to be endangered or facing imminent extinction protected under the Species at Risk Act.
According to the Canadian Wildlife Foundation, bats have been experiencing a steep decline in recent years. A disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS) has been known to wipe out entire colonies of North American bats. The disease is caused by a fungus that develops over the bat's face and body during winter cave hibernation.
Infected bats, exhausted before food becomes available after winter, eventually die. According to the Government of Ontario, it is believed that human activity in caves where bats hibernate is contributing to the spread of WNS.
Habitat loss has also devastated Canadian bat populations. In summer, bats are known to "roost" in large trees or, in the absence of large trees due to deforestation, barns and household attics. As older barns are torn down and attics are updated to prevent bats from roosting, suitable habitats for bats run in short supply.
Below are four perfect reasons to put up a bat box in your backyard:
1. Bats are nature's insect repellant, especially when it comes to pesky mosquitoes. A single brown bat can easily consume up to 600 mosquitoes each hour.
2. Not only do they help reduce the number of insects buzzing in your backyard garden, but they also help protect farmers' crops by eating crop-ravaging pests and helping to disperse seeds.
3. Bat houses give bats a safe and secure place to roost and tend to their young.
4. While ready-to-hang bax boxes can be purchased, building one can be a fun project for the whole family.
Bat houses aren’t difficult to build and instructions are easy to find.
Guidelines for building and installing a bat house
To build your bat house you will need cedar, which is the best choice, but interior plywood works well too. You need to create horizontal grooves, at least a quarter-of-an-inch apart, throughout the entire length of the wood on both the front and back. You can also purchase mesh to place in the bat house, which is easier if you have kids helping you build it.
It has to be at least 24 inches tall, 13 inches wide and three inches deep, and the chambers should be two inches apart. The opening should be no more than one inch wide, and to keep the right temperature, add a quarter-inch wide air vent six inches above the opening and a ceiling beneath the roof of the house.
Your bat house should be placed at least 15 feet high and have 20 feet or more of open space all around the bat house. This way they can easily locate, and fly in and out of it. Also, it should be facing southeast for optimum sun exposure in the morning, and preferably be placed on a pole or on the side of a high structure.
This is just one way you can build a bat house. Check online for other options and have fun seeing the bats fly around in your yard!