emerges from a traditional bat box (or bat house).
A big brown bat emerges from a traditional bat box (or bat house). © Pete Pattavina

Stories in Tennessee

Information on Bat Houses

Interested in having a bat house? Here are some tips and suggestions on how to get started.

Mother Rafinesque bat with pup.
Mother bat and pup. A mother Rafinesque's big-eared bat with her pup.

Getting Started

You can buy bat houses at local hardware stores or online. The two most successful types of bat houses are the Traditional Bat House, which can be single or multi-chambered, and the Rocket Box, which is usually four-sided. These two types of houses have the highest success rate because they mimic the crevices under peeling park of dead or dying trees where bats like to roost.

Bat houses placed on the side of buildings or poles rather than in forests are typically the most successful because the bats can find them more easily. Locating the bat houses near streams or rivers will also help attract bats more quickly. However, bats will not respond to attractant methods such as guano lures or food lures. Bats will find these new roosting sites on their own.

Make Your Own Bat House

Don’t be afraid to use what you have available to create your own bat house. If you want a proven design with minimal risk, try the Rocket Box or Traditional Bat House. However, if you are handy or artistic, don’t feel limited by the specifics of the two preferred bat house styles. Here are some basic guidelines to help you construct a successful bat house: 

  • Bat houses can be constructed out of wood, rubber, light concrete, etc.      
  • A bat house must be at least 2 feet tall with one to four roosting chambers.
  • Each chamber should measure at least 20 inches in height.
  • Bat houses should also be sealed to prevent water from entering. 
  • A bat house should be placed at least 10 feet above the ground, but 12 to 20 feet is the preferred range.
  • It should be placed in lots of sunlight, typically receiving 6 to 7 hours a day in order to maintain warm temperatures, generally ranging from 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Here are handy step-by-step instructions on how to build your own bat house.

Bat houses can be painted to regulate temperatures. In Tennessee, dark or medium paints or stains work well, because they absorb the sun’s heat and help the bat house stay warm. However, you don’t have to paint the bat house. Bats prefer certain temperatures depending on their species. In fact, if you have multiple bat houses, you can provide thermal variety by painting some dark and others not at all.

The Summer Habitats That Bats Look For

Bat houses are meant to mimic bats’ preferred roosting habitats, which is typically under peeling bark in large, dead or dying trees. The holes, crevices and spaces under the peeling bark provide shelter from predators and harsh weather conditions. These large trees also allow bats to reside high off the ground protected from predators such as snakes and raccoons, while also receiving ample sunlight.

A well-built and well-maintained bat house should have good success. It may take a year or so for bats to inhabit the bat house; however, bats are accustomed to changing habitats and are constantly looking for new roosting sites.

Bat houses can play a vital role in their survival, providing optimal roosting conditions, which might otherwise be hard to find. Although bats often go unnoticed, they are the top predator for night-flying insects, so having them around is extremely beneficial in controlling the pest insect populations for our farms, gardens and forests.

Maintenance

After you have successfully installed your bat house, it’s important to monitor it periodically. This involves checking it once a month or so, looking for things such as wasp nests and temperature levels, making sure the house isn’t too cold or overheating. (Daytime temperatures consistently cooler than 80 degrees would be too cold; likewise, daytime temperatures consistently above 100 degrees would be too hot.) Bat houses also might need to be repainted or resealed in the winter.

Once your bat house is installed and successful, you might consider providing information to a citizen science program designed to gather bat data from everyday folks to advance our knowledge and information of the furry flying friends. Here is a good citizen science program for bats.