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Adult Rafinesques big-eared bat soars through the night. USDA photo by the Forest Service.

Backyard Habitat: Bats

Bats are an important part of healthy southeastern ecosystems. They pollinate flowers and serve as natural pest control. Backyard bats will help reduce insect pests that bother you and your garden plants. A typical summer colony of 100 bats feeding 200 days will consume more than 2200 pounds of insects or approximately 600,000,000 bugs!

Most eastern bats spend the winter hibernating in caves and move to trees or buildings for the warm summer. However, some bats spend all year in caves and others spend all year in trees. As hollow trees are cut down, bat boxes, such as the one shown here, are needed for bats to survive. This is especially true in April to August when females are looking for safe and quiet places to give birth and raise their pups. Both the mothers and newborns are very sensitive to being disturbed.

How to build a bat box

Download and print these instructions (PDF)

Measurements for side of bat box Measurements for front of bat box
  • Using CDX plywood or cedar, cut all pieces to size.
  • To give the bats something to cling to, space shallow saw kerfs or knife gouges about 1” apart on the plywood baffles or staple plastic (not metal) screening instead.
  • Screw 34” x 1” spacer strips on side panels to make slots for the baffles.
  • Attach front panel to sides. Add roof. Glue baffle edges and drop into slots. Attach back panel and caulk.
  • Darken with water based stain. Tack or staple tar paper to roof of the box to increase heat absorption.

When and where to install your bat box

Any time is a good time to install a bat box, but late winter and early spring are best.

Hang the box at least 10 feet off the ground in a spot where it can receive six hours of morning sun. About 100 bats can live in this bat box.

Northern long-eared bats using a bat box. Photo by Nick Gikas, Indiana State University.
Northern long-eared bats using a bat box. Photo by Nick Gikas, Indiana State University.

Bat species in the Southeastern United States

  • Big brown bat
  • Brazilian free-tailed bat
  • Eastern pipistrelle bat
  • Eastern red bat
  • Eastern small-footed bat
  • Evening bat
  • Florida bonneted bat (endangered)
  • Florida mastiff bat
  • Gray bat (endangered)
  • Hoary bat
  • Indiana bat (endangered)
  • Jamaican fruit-eating bat
  • Little brown bat
  • Northern long-eared bat (threatened)
  • Northern yellow bat
  • Ozark big-eared bat (endangered)
  • Pallas’ mastiff bat
  • Rafinesque’s big-eared bat
  • Seminole bat
  • Silver-haired bat
  • Southeastern bat
  • Virginia big-eared bat (endangered)

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