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How to attract bats for insect control

Bats are helpful for controlling many types of insect pests - here's how to attract bats to your own backyard

If you are interested in attracting bats to your backyard, several tips and tricks listed here might be helpful. Be forewarned, however, that it may not be the easiest proposition!

Bats may have a reputation that seems scary to many people, but the truth is they not only consume mosquitoes but also many other types of insects that invade and harm plants and gardens.

The idea of "build it and they will come" may not work with these tiny mammals, however. Several factors must be considered for successful bat roosting.

Many opinions exist as to what type of bat house will work best. You can find detailed plans and information at your local garden center or through bat conservation organizations. Birdhouses simply will not work for bats; they are too wide. Bats prefer narrow roosting spots with rough insides for easy climbing and clinging. The smallest bat houses should be no less than two feet high.

The area you live in will determine where to mount a bat house. Within each region, location may determine which bat species are attracted to the house. Local or national conservation organizations can help with this information.

A few basics include:
-Reportedly, bats find new houses mounted on poles much more quickly than those fastened to trees.
-Successful bat homes are at least 10-15 feet off the ground.
-A large body of water, such as a pond or stream, within half a mile of your residence also encourages bat habitation. Bats know they can always find choice insects around water.
-Sun is an important issue and recommendations as to the time bat houses are exposed to sunlight vary (usually about 6 hours each day).
-It may take 1-2 years before you will see residents in a new bat house. However, installing a house no later than February may encourage faster results.
-Never use pressure-treated wood. Cedar and exterior plywood are best. If you decide to add color, use dark paint, and only on the outside.
-During the winter, the bats will probably roost elsewhere. This is a good time to give your bat house a thorough cleaning.

If you handle a bat:
Just like other wild animals, bats have the potential to carry diseases such as rabies. If a bat allows you to approach, it is highly likely the animal is injured or ill. Any person who handles a bat should wear heavy gloves. Keep pets' rabies vaccinations current and avoid breathing the dust from dried animal droppings. (These pointers apply to any wild animal). If in doubt about an injured bat, you should notify the local game warden's office.

If you see a baby bat, the mother is probably nearby. If neighborhood cats are on the prowl, you might want to erect some type of barrier; one that does not restrict movement.

Once your colony - large or small - is established, you can relax and know that these flying mammals are on patrol for the good of your yard and garden.



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