As we creep closer and closer to that magical time which is All Hallows Eve, the iconic images of the holiday are all around us. Pumpkins, spider webs, witches, black cats and, a fond favorite of mine – BATS.
As orange construction paper and pipe-cleaner projects begin to overload your Pinterest board, why not consider a craft that does a little more than clutter up your kitchen table, and both you and the kids can enjoy for years to come.
But first we should clear up a few things…
A lot of people are afraid of bats or even just a little bit nervous about them, having grown up on childhood horror stories of vampire bats or the more alarming 90’s tales of rabies and disease.
But bats are absolutely nothing to be afraid of and, in fact, are a hugely important part of the ecosystem!
Bats Eat Insects
The average bat eats between 2,000-5,000 insects every night. In Florida, almost every season is mosquito season. Considering the potential for diseases like West Nile, Malaria, and Yellow Fever, a friendly neighborhood bat can actually help keep your family healthy.
Bats, not Vampires
There are over 1,300 species of bats across the world. Only thirteen of those ever call Florida their home, and most of those are just passing through. But NONE of them are vampire bats. In fact, there are only three species of vampire bats at all, and they all live in Central and South America.
Bat’s are mammals and give birth to one, maybe two, ‘pups’ at a time which can weigh as much as 1/4 their body weight! The babies drink milk and are groomed and cared for by their loving mommies for several months.
Momma bats will find the best shelter they can before having their babies, and will eat twice as many insects while pregnant or caring for their young.
Building a Bat House
Unlike Count Dracula, Bats don’t actually need a big roomy castle to live in. In fact, most bats prefer a very tight concealed space where they can be kept safe from predators and the elements.
This bat house design is not only suitable for most small varieties of bats but is easy to assemble with the kids! All you need is;
- Plywood; 2 x 2.5 ft and 2 x 2 ft
- Three pieces of two-inch-thick trim, two feet long (wood)
- 12 Carpenter Screws and a Drill.
- Caulk & a Caulk Gun
- Paint (dark colors) to make it fun 🙂
If you would like to watch the video, scroll down to the end. For step by step instructions, please continue reading.
(1) Start by painting one side of both your pieces of plywood a dark or natural color that will blend in the day before. Bright or neon colors may repel future tenants (bats aren’t actually blind you know- their echolocation is just SO accurate they use their ears to hunt instead of their eyes). Paint one side and the ends of all three pieces of trim. Let these dry overnight.
(2) Once your pieces are dry you can begin to assemble! Start by putting one piece of trim along the top, paint side out, on the unpainted side of the larger piece of plywood and caulk it down before clamping in place. Do the same with the two side pieces.
(3) While your caulk is setting, go ahead and scratch up the inside (the unpainted sides) of both pieces of plywood. This will give the bats somewhere to cling to! If you are using thin plywood, don’t scratch too deep or it will might make the wood start to decompose over time.
(4) Once the caulk has started to set (about an hour or so) remove the clamps and have an adult use the drill to secure the final piece in place. The screws should sink into the trim, but not poke through to the other side. Place a bead of caulk on the screw before drilling, as this will make the holes watertight and prevent the wood from rotting.
(5) The trim will stick out a little lower than the top piece, this protects the bats from the wind and gives additional places to hang. Decorate with stencil outlines or a fun name. Just remember to avoid bright/neon colors and avoid anything shiny like glitter or sequins. Hang your bat house at least ten feet off the ground, fourteen if you can manage it. And mount it somewhere so that is unlikely to move or flap in the wind. You’re building a home for a furry flying family, you don’t want it to turn into an amusement park ride every time the wind blows.
And that’s it! One spooky spectacular bat house to liven up your Halloween, create a fun activity for the kids, help deal with those nasty mosquito’s and, most importantly, provide a safe and protected home for some fuzzy friends who just want to live and let live… unless you’re a mosquito.
How to tell if there are Bats in the Belfry
Remember, bats take flight in the 15-30 minutes before sunset. So if you’re not sure if someone has moved in yet or not, just keep an eye on the bottom of the bat house right around twilight. Bats got hunting every night, so if they’re in, they’ll be going out
For more information on Bats, check out the information available at NationalForests.org and check out the US Fish and Wildlife Services for these ‘10 Ways to be a Friend to Bats’
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