Home Health Defense –
How to Build Your Own Bat Box
With the spread of West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, dengue, and other mosquito-borne Third World diseases, eradicating mosquitoes from your property will not only eliminate a three-season annoyance, it could save your life.
Bats are among the cheapest and most effective ways to keep down annoying, disease-carrying mosquitoes. And that’s where the bat box comes in.
An Easy Project With Big Benefits
When you install a bat box, or bat house, near your home, you invite bats to move in.
A single one of these little flying mammals can eat more than a thousand mosquitoes in a single night – they are very effective at pest control.
The benefits of having bats in your neighborhood extend beyond mosquito control. They also eat bugs that can damage gardens and farm crops. More bats mean fewer pesticides and that’s good for your health, too. Fewer pesticides also help keep water systems cleaner.
The great thing about a bat box is that once a bat moves it, you’ll have mosquito protection – and the other benefits – no matter what happens. If there’s an even bigger outbreak of West Nile virus, you’ll have less to worry about because your exposure will be less.
If there’s a breakdown in the healthcare system and treatment of diseases like West Nile virus is harder to get access, too, your bat box will help protect you and your family by keeping you safe from the disease in the first place.
If there’s an interruption in the grocery supply chains and you can’t buy bug repellent, you can rest easy because the mosquitoes near your home will be kept naturally low by the bats.
A bat box is easy and inexpensive to build, and the benefits are important and lasting.
Bat Box Basics
The first step in building your bat box is to choose a location. You’ll have the best luck attracting bats to your bat box if you choose your location based on three things:
You can secure your bat box to a pole or to the side of your house, garage, or even a barn if you have one.
The best building material for a bat box is long-lasting cedar, but you can also use exterior grade plywood.
You should build your bat box to be at least two feet tall and 13 inches wide. The interior of the box should be three inches deep – bats don’t need a lot of room and the small space helps them feel secure.
The interior walls need to be grooved so the bats have something to grip. You can carve shallow, horizontal grooves into the wood every quarter inch. Or, to make this step easier, you can staple polyethylene plastic mesh to the interior walls to give the bats something to grab onto.
The bottom of the bat box is usually left open as the entrance. The entrance should be only one inch deep, so plan to affix a board piece to the back wall to narrow the entrance.
A simple bat box is just a rectangle that meets these requirements, but you can expand on this design, giving it a roof pitch and making it shed rainwater and look more like a decorative birdhouse.
You can find detailed plans for building more intricate bat boxes online. The Organization for Bat Conservation is a great place to start.
Not a Do-It-Yourselfer?
Personally, I get pretty busy, and I’d prefer to have a ready-made bat box rather than taking the time to build my own.
If you fall into that same boat with me, don’t worry. You can find easy-to-assemble or already assembled bat boxes at most local hardware stores, home centers, and garden centers.
If not, you can order a bat box kit from several online outlets. I found models ranging from less than $50 to larger, fancier designs that are more than $100. My favorite option based on both price and appearance is available through Sears.com. It’s made by Heath Manufacturing and comes in at about $35; it’s the one I use at my own home near a large body of fresh water. It’s pretty cheap prevention compared with the cost of treating a mosquito-borne disease.
Putting to Rest the False Rumors
Some folks worry that bats carry disease – especially rabies. Like virtually any mammal, bats can get rabies, but it’s very rare. Bats – even rabid bats – don’t attack humans, so your risk of getting sick from a bat is very nearly zero. Bats won’t get tangled in your hair or suck your blood.
But the benefit in terms of disease prevention and creating a more pleasant outdoor space is real and it is huge. And it’s lasting, which is why I make a bat box one of my ready-for-anything recommendations.