Blitzen drawing of a vampire with bats

Installing a bat box: how to choose the best location

4 min

A premise about installing a bat box

Bats, once feared for their suspicious connections to Dracula, are enjoying great popularity today: as a matter of facts, they eat platoons of mosquitoes and are so important for the ecosystem. That’s the reason why everybody is looking for a guardian bat into his garden, installing a bat box.

Bat-boxes are shelters for bats. Made of wood, they have a perfect shape to host bats in Summer time. Easy to make and buy, bat-boxes have been successfully spreading in North America and Europe.

Is a good bat-box enough? No, it’s not: a bat box is useless if it is not well positioned. That’s why I’ll show you how to place your bat-box, in 5 steps, you get installed your bat-box.

  • Years, months or days. It may take many months before a beautiful bat chooses your bat-box. An Italian researcher, Dr. Riccucci, says that “it’s difficult that bat boxes are immediately colonized by bats: in Florida (University of Florida, Gainesville) a huge bat-box, empty for three years, is inhabited today by over 100,000 individuals”. All we can do is placing the bat-box in a good place and be patient.
  • Super-protected animals. Bats are wild animals. You must not capture them and stuff them in a bat-box. If after a couple of years your house remains empty, you can consider moving it and giving it a new location.
  • Long live the guano. The best way to understand if the bat-box is inhabited? The presence of the guano. Well, that’s the reason why it is better to avoid putting your bat-box on to places of passage: bats may also appreciate, people below may not. Remember that guano is among the best natural fertilizers, so, if you have a vegetable garden, make good use of it.
  • Abusive tenants. It can happen that your beautiful bat-box is abusively occupied by pigeons, wasps and hornets. In that case, evict the tenants (but be careful!).

1 – Place your Bat Box at least 4 meters from the ground

Disegno raffigurante un Pipistrello salire la scala per posizionare la Bat-Box

Bats always choose shelters several meters in height, to make sure no predators can attack them while they rest. The minimum height that you must consider for your bat-box, therefore, is about four meters. Below that threshold, in fact, the bat would not feel safe.

An excellent space for installing the bat-box, for example, is the wall of the buildings below the eaves: a two-story façade, in fact, normally reaches 6 meters. Moreover, the roof is protected from the bad weather, allowing it to last much longer over time.

2 – Place the bat-box away from the street lamps and artificial light sources

 

Disegno raffigurante un cielo notturno e nessuna luce artificiale sulla Bat-Box posizionata

The light of the street lamps must be avoided. The artificial light, in fact, can make bats think that it is daylight: street lamps dangerously alter their perception of time and their biorhythms.

The bat-box, therefore, must be installed away from all artificial light sources, so as to be immersed in the dark as the sun goes down. Not bad if farther away there are street lamps or light bulbs: the important thing is that direct light does not affect the bat-box.

3 – Put the bat box in a place free from obstacles

Disegno raffigurante una Bat-Box libera da ostacoli

Branches, fronds, poles and electric wires in front of the bat-box are a deterrent. Bats, in fact, need an entry free from any obstacle, to get easily in flight inside their shelter. In nature, for example, a shelter much loved by bats is offered by the dry trunks, now devoid of branches and leaves, of dead trees. Also remember to avoid metal surfaces because they repel bats.

4 – Put the bat box where there is nothing below

Disegno raffigurante un Castello con nessun ostacolo sotto la Bat-Box posizionata in cima

In addition to being free from obstacles, the ideal shelter must have nothing below. Bats, in fact, know very well that juts, branches, overhangs and balconies can allow terrestrial predators to climb up to their bat-box.

If the bats perceive that there is nothing underneath your bat-box, they will be more willing to choose it as its house.

5 – Place your bat box in a place exposed to sunlight

 

Many experts recommend putting the house in a spot with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. It is often suggested to place the bat-boxes towards South-West, so that it is warmed by the rays of the afternoon sun. An Italian researcher, Paolo Agnelli (University of Florence), suggests that “those located in cool places are preferred by males while the hot ones, better if exposed to the South-West, they are preferred by the colonies of adult females.”

Extra: Burry your bat box for a few days and do not paint it

Bats appear to be attracted by the musty smells of damp wood. As I said, in nature bats often choose carcasses of dead trees, slipping into the spaces created by the detachment of the bark from the trunk. To recreate this pleasant aroma, burry your bat-box under the ground for a few days.

Covering it by good soil, in fact, you will make the wood smell good. For the same reason, do not paint your bat-box. Somebody paints just the external panels, but I advise you to totally avoid it.

Super-Extra: When to install your bat house? Always

When to install your bat-box? Bats spend the winter in completely different places from summer shelters. They leave their places in spring and it is at that time that they will choose their summer home. This would suggest that the most appropriate time to place a bat-box is from late February to early April. That’s not so true, because bats do not like novelty at all.

A bat-box installed in the colder months, therefore, could better integrate with the context, take odors due to the decay of the wood and reassure the bats. Therefore, there is no favorite period to install your shelter: arrange it freely and let the bat fall in love with it.

alberto blitzen
ARCHITECT

I am an architect and I study the habitat of many animals. I used to live among the woods of France, the sands of the Middle East, the canals of Venice and the lights of Paris, before returning to the fold.

The fold is on the beautiful hills of Lake Garda, surrounded by castles, fairy tales and cypresses. From here I tell stories and make drawings on cats, dogs, mysteries, legends, hedgehogs and bats.

 

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