Many people dislike or fear bats, but they are very beneficial. Many bat species can consume thousands of pest insects (including mosquitoes!) every single night. Although bat houses are a great way to attract bats, they don’t always succeed in getting tenants. Bats are notoriously picky about where they roost, and there is never a guarantee that bats will inhabit a bat house, even if it is set up in perfect conditions. When installing a bat house, placement (and patience) can make a big difference.
Placement Tip #1: Choose a Rural Area
Bats will only live in places that meet their habitat needs. For this reason, bat houses are more successful when they are built on farm land, natural areas or on open acreages. Bats may inhabit bat houses built in yards or near homes, but it is not quite as likely. Bat houses built in subdivisions or in more urban areas will probably not be used at all.
Placement Tip #2: Choose an Area with Few Trees
Bat houses built in open areas are more likely to succeed for two reasons. The first is that bats choose roosting areas by sight. Bat houses constructed in wooded areas are less likely to be noticed. Bats also require a lot of open space for flying and hunting. Bat houses should ideally have between 20 and 30 feet of flight space surrounding them in order to attract bats.
Placement Tip #3: Consider Sunlight
Most often the occupants of bat houses are female bats using them as a nursery for their young. These bats require a warm roosting site, and sunlight (especially morning sun) is key. Bat houses should be placed in an area that receives at least seven hours of sunlight per day. To increase the warmth in your bat house, cover the exterior with a medium to dark water-based paint or stain.
Placement Tip #4: Choose an Appropriate Height
Generally speaking, the higher the bat house is, the more likely bats are to inhabit it. Bat houses should be at least 12 to 15 feet from the ground, either on a pole or on the side of a building. Bat houses should not be built in trees, as the upper branches provide shade which makes the houses too cool for most bats.
Placement Tip #5: Choose an Area with Standing Water and Food Sources
Bats will more readily inhabit bat houses if all of their needs can be met in the surrounding area. Therefore bat houses should be built not more than a quarter of a mile from standing water or streams. Having a source of water nearby provides water for the bats, as well as a habitat for their insect prey. Additionally bat houses should not be built in areas with heavy insecticide use, as this drastically limits their food sources.