Of course, that is ridiculous since there is no such thing as a vampire, but bats really do exist. Everywhere. Here in the Missouri Ozarks, I know we have at least a few species and the one I am most familiar with are the ones that live in my attic. The big brown bat, or Eptesicus fuscus, is a commonly seen bat in Missouri and many other states and they do not hurt humans, only bugs. In fact, each bat can consume 3,000 insects per night. That makes them worth their weight in gold if you ask me because we probably have about a million flying annoyances on the deck any night of the spring or summer season.

mosquito sitting on someone's armBats in the Belfry

When we first bought this house about seven years ago, I had noticed some droppings (guano) in front of the door and thought it was probably just from a mouse or something and it did not bother me at all since it was only outside the front door and not inside. But after the first week of living there, I knew it was actually from our upstairs neighbors, the colony of big brown bats that live in our attic. Since they have never bothered us and there is no smell coming from where they are, I figured they are worth more to us than it would be to try to evict them, so we let them stay. They still do not bother us and are really excellent at mosquito control, so we chose to let them stay.

bat flying against the skyLet Them Stay or Evict Them

However, after reading up on the subject, we have decided to make some bat boxes and try to get them to live outside the house instead. This is because although the bats were not bothering us and did not stink up the house, I saw some pictures of the amount of bat guano that is left behind by those little buggers and I imagined that all up in our attic. Then to think that the guano can be a source of histoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by the spores of this fungus and can make us and our visitors very ill. So, we decided to get some bat boxes and see if the bats want to move out of our attic and into the boxes. I will have to let you know how that works out in a future article because we have not even bought them yet. In fact, that is where the idea came for this article. I am going to educate myself while I educate you all.

Bat boxes are an excellent choice for many home owners and this one is made in the USA

Bats in Missouri

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, we have 14 species of bats in our state, which include:

  1. Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
  2. Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis)
  3. Eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii)
  4. Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
  5. Gray myotis (Myotis grisescens)
  6. Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
  7. Indiana myotis (Myotis sodalis)
  8. Little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus)
  9. Northern long-eared myotis (Myotis septentrionalis)
  10. Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)
  11. Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
  12. Southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius)
  13. Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii)
  14. Tri-colored bat (eastern pipistrelle) (Perimyotis subflavus)

Of course, many of these are on the endangered list and some are already close to extinction, so it is not advisable to kill any bats you see. In fact, it is actually illegal to do so in Missouri and many other states. Not to mention, it is inhumane and silly because bats are very good for the environment. I would rather have a hundred bats in my neighborhood than a million mosquitos and that is what it boils down to. Neighborhoods with bat populations have fewer flying insects. Period.

If you are really serious about bats, here's a field guide with descriptions, images, range, habitat and food preferences that will let you make your garden bat-friendly.

bat box mounted in a treeBuild Your Own or Buy One

So how can you encourage them to move into your neighborhood? Get some bat boxes. This is also good for people like me who just want the bats to move into their own place. After all, they have been living rent-free for many years and it is time they got out on their own. You can choose to either build your own (if you are handy and have the time) or buy some (if you are busy and cannot build a box to save your life). Anyway, it is supposedly easy to build one of these things but when I look at the plans, I get a headache. Seriously though, all it takes is some plywood, screws, nails, and some caulk. Like I said, if you are handy you can build this in less than an hour. Or if you are like me and my hubby, you spend several hours getting the stuff together, try to put one together, argue with each other for a few hours about why it is not looking like it should, and then go ahead and buy one.

Are you handy with a hammer? Build your own bat boxes with these detailed plans.

bat habitatEviction Notice

After you have put up a few bat boxes, whether you make them or buy them, next you have to encourage the bats to move into them. The best way to do this is by excluding them. This does not mean that you need to go up and kick them out. The best way to evict them is to put some one-way exits where they live so they can leave but cannot get back in. You can do this with tubes such as PVC pipe or even an old caulking tube with the ends cut off. Secure the tube over the hole where you see the bats coming and going at night and then just wait. The bats will leave through the tube but will not be able to get back in because the tubes are so slick. However, if you have some really smart or creative bats, you may have to put some flaps or a clear piece of plastic around the tube to keep them out. Just make sure that you do this when they are not actively raising young. You don't want to block the parents from their babies. As long as you have some bat boxes around your yard, they should be fine with moving into them and will eventually leave your house alone. Keeping them close by will keep down the mosquito population though, so don’t let them go too far.

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