Bat Boxes

I was in Denver last week for a design institute focused on creating partnerships between writing projects and science centers.  While on a walk I noticed a bat box on the side of the hotel.  I probably wouldn’t have known what it was without input from my friend—who also happens to work at the Natural History Museum—who is familiar with bats and bat boxes.

bat box

I started wondering…are bat boxes like owl boxes?  I learned a lot about owl boxes from the true story of Molly and McGhee in Molly the Owl.  Do bats use bat boxes the way owls use owl boxes, as a home and a place to raise their babies?

My experience with bats is pretty limited.  I have a vivid memory of my Grandma Millie, a plump white-haired farm lady in her cotton dress and sensible shoes, wielding a broom, chasing a bat from the attic bedroom at her house when I, as a child, looked on.  She wasn’t afraid—just determined to get this wild animal out of the house and back outside where it belonged.

My curiosity about bats was piqued by the bat house and question after question kept coming to mind.  Why would someone put a bat box on the side of a hotel?  Were they hoping to attract bats?

A Google search led me to some interesting web sites and information about bats.  I learned that bats are the best defense against mosquitoes.  Did you know a single bat eats between 500 and 1000 mosquitoes in an hour?  Bats are also important pollinators, making sure our plants reproduce.  I learned there are over 1000 species of bats in the world—and I found that we have quite a few species of bats right here in San Diego!

Some people think that bats live in caves, but in fact, most bats live in trees, under bridges, or in abandoned buildings in the summer.  (My grandma’s house wasn’t abandoned, but I imagine that attic was mostly unused except when us grandkids came to visit during the summer.)  Bat boxes are pretty skinny—made to mimic the kinds of spaces bats choose to live, often between the bark of the tree and the trunk.  Bats like a nice close fit—and they like it to be warm for their babies, so people often put their bat boxes on the side of a building where the sun shines on it most of the day.

Here’s a short video to give you a little taste of bats in the wild: wild detectives

One encounter with a bat box led me to a new appreciation and understanding of bats.  I also learned that this interesting animal has become endangered.  People’s fear and misconceptions lead them to want to get rid of bats.  Why is it that humans are so quick to dismiss and destroy what they are afraid of, without taking the time and effort to learn more?