What is the best type of bat house to buy for my yard? Where can I buy it and how many do you recommend I purchase? I have a large lawn surrounded by trees, with a small pond nearby.
I would begin by gathering information, learning all you can learn on the subject. Consider a visit to Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox and see the bat houses they have to offer at a nominal cost and free plans to build your own. Sanctuary Director René Laubach informs me, "People can purchase small, generic bat houses from us for $20.00 each. We also give out plans [and advice] free of charge. Larger bat houses are usually more effective than smaller ones (more thermodynamically stable). The most important factor is placement, in our area they must be placed so as to receive morning sunlight -- at least four hours on a sunny day. A shaded tree trunk will not work. As for how many, one will usually suffice."
Another source for information is Bat Conservation International (BCI) at www.batcon.org/pdfs/education/fof_bathouse.pdf/ This site also has free plans for building bat houses and more answers that you have questions.
Bats are beneficial, but whenever I mention them in this column someone always writes me, "Yuck!"
To that I quote from Mass Wildlife’s Homeowner’s Guide to Bats, "Bats are of immense benefit to humankind in that they consume great quantities of noxious insects such as mosquitoes. Dr. Merlin Tuttle of Bat Conservation International reports that the gray bat, which is closely related to several species in Massachusetts, consumes as many as 3,000 small insects in a night. In the Boston area, Dr. Thomas Kunz of Boston University estimates that 14 to 15 tons of insects are consumed each summer by the 50,000 big brown bats that live within the bounds of Route 128. Among vertebrates, bats are the greatest nocturnal predators of flying insects."
According to a recent release by BCI, "White-nose Syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats since it was discovered in a single New York cave in February 2006. Seven bat species in 23 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces have now been documented with WNS
Named for a cold-loving white fungus typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats, White-nose Syndrome causes bats to awaken more often during hibernation and use up the stored fat reserves that are needed to get them through the winter. Infected bats often emerge too soon from hibernation and are often seen flying around in midwinter. These bats usually freeze or starve to death."
Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email Naturewatch@live.com