Bats are amazing animals—capable of pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and controlling insect-pest populations. Bats are the only major predator of nocturnally flying insects, and that includes mosquitoes! In fact, one insect-eating bat can consume 500 to 1000 insects per hour. Without bats, your backyard would be a very buggy place!
If you want to enjoy the benefits of the bat’s voracious insect-eating behavior, try putting up bat houses. Are you wondering what bats you might have in your area and if they will use a house you put up? The following information on U.S. bats that will use bat houses is reprinted from Bat Conservation International, an organization committed to conservation, education and research initiatives involving bats.
Throughout the northern two-thirds of the United States and southern Canada, the little brown myotis (insect eating bat), and big brown bat are the most likely species to be encountered in bat houses. In the southern United States, Mexican freetailed and evening bats are most common. Almost any bat that will roost in buildings or under bridges is a candidate for a bat house. These species have been documented as bat house users:
Little brown myotis, Myotis lucifugus
Wooded areas throughout most of Canada and the northern half of the United States, except desert and arid areas. A few isolated populations farther south. Rears young in tree hollows, buildings, rock crevices and bat houses. Travels to nearest suitable caveor abandoned mine for hibernation. This is the species that most commonly occupies bat houses.
Southeastern myotis, Myotis austroriparius
Mostly restricted to Gulf Coast states. Rears young in caves, tree hollows and buildings. Often nonmigratory, hibernates in caves in its northern range and sometimes in tree hollows or buildings farther south. Confirmed bat house user in Florida and Georgia; believed to use bat houses in other Gulf states.
Big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus
Most of the United States and Canada, except for extreme southern Florida and south and central Texas. Rears young in tree hollows, buildings and bat houses. Hibernates in caves, abandoned mines and buildings. Frequent bat house users, they have overwintered in bat houses from Texas to New York.
Wagner’s bonneted bat, Eumops glaucinus
Southern Florida only. Extremely rare, seen only a handful of times since the1960s. Uses buildings with Spanish tile roofs, as well as palm fronds and woodpecker holes. A maternity colony with 11 individuals was confirmed using a bat house with a 11⁄2-inch chamber in southwest Florida.
Pallid bat, Antrozous pallidus
Western and southwestern United States and extreme south-central British Columbia, mostly in arid areas. Found in rock crevices, buildings, under bridges and in bat houses. Winter habitat unknown, presumed to hibernate locally in deep rock crevices.
Long-eared myotis, Myotis evotis
Primarily in forests of southwestern Canada and the western United States. Often lives alone or in small groups; females form small maternity colonies in summer. Roosts in hollow trees, under bark, in cliff crevices, caves, mines and abandoned buildings. Confirmed bat house user in Washington. Winter habitat unknown.
Pallas’s mastiff bat, Molossus molossus
In the United States, found in buildings in the Florida Keys only. Throughout the Caribbean, northern Mexico, Central America and northern South America, its roosts include hollow trees, palm fronds, rock crevices, caves, bridges, culverts and buildings. Uses bat houses year-round in Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico.
For complete information about bats and bat houses, as well as where to put your bat house, and excellent resource is Bat Conservation International. Their website is www.batcon.org.