A BAT PENTHOUSE – BUT WILL THE BATS GO FOR IT?

At first, I was excited to find bats nestling into the gorgeous geometry of our timber frame barn. Doug and I are well aware of the key role bats play key role in nature. 

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But we quickly came to realize that, despite their immense value in keeping insects in balance, they make pretty foul roommates from a human perspective. As their numbers increased, it literally began to rain guano on our tools and equipment.

We designed our barn with solar collection and the best possible use of the interior space in mind (see our post Building our Timberframe Barn ).

A bat house had not crossed our mind at that point, and we were disappointed to realize that the highest wall of our barn (which would get a bat house up where bats prefer it) was not facing the direction they like. We put a bat house up there anyhow.  (See our blog Hanging up a Bat House and Hanging Up Hope)

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Knowing how at risk our bat populations have become due to White Nose syndrome, we did not want to disrupt the growing colony that calls our barn home.  According the the Wisconsin DNR, all 60 sites they visited this past winter were infected with the fungus. 

Severe decreases in populations of bats are also showing up in the summer nighttime surveys volunteers conduct . For example, the average decline in summer roost populations across the state in 2017 was 80 percent. More information on summer survey results area available in the Wisconsin Bat Program newsletter

Check out this recent article on volunteer bat monitoring in Discover Magazine.

A few bats did choose to move into the bat house we mounted on the outside wall of the barn, but most of them stayed inside and continued to shower everything we keep in there with guano and urine.

NOT IDEAL!

So we are offering new-improved accommodations with a free-standing bat house at the right height and orientation. Doug spent the winter planning the best spot.  Knowing that other bat houses on poles in the area have not withstood recent high winds, we used two 2” ID Schedule 40 galvanized poles and set them in concrete.

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I stenciled a sunburst onto the front to catch the morning light on a new, 4-chamber bat house, and we mounted our existing 2-chamber bat house to the back side, making what we hoped would be a luxury bat duplex.

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Our daughter, Della, helped Doug mount the houses in the sky while I ran around on the ground playing go-fer and snapping some photos with my phone (pre-dialed to 911).

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Thankfully, no emergency call was necessary.

We really hustled to get our bat mansion up and ready before April to greet bats returning from their winter hibernaria, and then we waited to see what would happen.

To our eyes, it is a bat palace in the sky – as perfect as we could make it.

Unfortunately, when the bats returned in mid April, they went right back into the barn! Sigh.  When I started writing this blog, that was the sad ending.

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This was so exciting that Doug had to photograph it, and I had to photograph him photographing it.

But then yesterday, we saw a substantial pile of guano under our new duplex! Good news!

 

Update June 6, 2018: Last night Doug and I sat in the fading light and counted 50 bats dropping out of the bat house (and 22 leaving the barn). 

What success have you had relocating these wonderful and valuable (but sometimes frustrating) little flying critters?

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2 replies

  1. Great story. Hope they move out of the barn into the new digs. Perhaps a second hotel would give them room to spread out?? Recently our neighbor put up a bat house and I have been hoping to watch them fly. No luck yet.. Then one made it into my house. Fortunately, I was quick to catch it and put it back in the yard.

    • Yes, bats in the house is even less desirable than bats in the barn. Our bats, which we have counted at upper 80s, are having a mixed reaction to their bat penthouse. Something they use it, and sometimes they don’t. Now that they have an alternative, we are working on plans to make the barn less attractive to them. Stay tuned.

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