Bats: endangered, White Nose Syndrome, WNS

Chimneys, Bats and Bat Houses

Here’s a common Home Maintenance challenge to ponder.  Keeping bats out of your attic is as easy as closing up all the access points -which should be done anyway. If there is access to your attic, the odds are you will eventually (if not already) have bats, mice, squirrels -if the opening is big enough, raccoon (surprisingly, they can fit into some small openings).

We had some bats living between the roof framing and chimney structure in our attic. They were sneaking in behind the chimney flashing and didn’t go any further than that.  I had been seeing their droppings for as long as we lived here -thinking is was mouse droppings. Chimneys, Bats and Bat HousesI couldn’t catch the mice, which was frustrating, of course, because I’d vacuum up the droppings one day and the next day there would be a little more.  It wouldn’t take long and it would be all over the place.

Bat House Update: Scroll to near bottom of page

I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out it was not mice, but bats.  Once I thought of that, I peered up between the roof framing and the chimney structure with a bright flashlight -and saw a bat staring back at me.

Bats: endangered, White Nose Syndrome, WNSLast spring we had our chimney rebuilt (from the roof line up) and in the process the bats lost their home. They are gone now, from that roost.  We still see a couple of bats doing aerobatic maneuvers in our backyard but we don’t know where they are roosting.  We know where they are not roosting -and that is in our chimney.

Our old chimney looked like a shoemaker built it.  Being the son of a bricklayer, I can spot a chimney that was built by a shoemaker at 100 yards.   Over the past couple of years we had done extensive work to the house and the chimney was the last item on the list.  Chimneys can be repaired if they have loose mortar joints or need a new cap, for example.  Ours was just plain ugly.  Not to mention it needed to be re-flashed because the shoemaker hadn’t flashed it right in the first place.  If he had, bats wouldn’t be able to sneak in.  So we hired a bonafide Bricklayer to replace the structure.  Someone I knew had served an apprenticeship in masonry (not shoemaking).

Bats are in jeopardy these days, if you haven’t heard.  The disease commonly referred to as ‘White-Nose Syndrome‘ (WNS) is killing hibernating bats -it is estimated that upwards to a million bats have been lost -mainly in the northeastern U.S. (fifteen states), but also two NE provinces of Canada and -in France.  It is unknown if the fungus was transported from France or if it migrated from the U.S.

The bats with WNS seem to be dying in hibernation (in caves, etc.) because they’ve used up all their fat reserves.  Researchers seem to think they are waking every three or four days or so, rather than the normal ten to twenty.  The Bats may be effectively dying of starvation.


No more Chimney Bats – We Bought Them a Bat House

We bat housethought we’d try to do something for them and purchased a ‘Bat House.’  We have it mounted on a pole way back in the backyard.  It will accommodate as many as 300 bats. It might take a year or two for it to become occupied, according to the Organization for Bat Conservation , from whom we bought the bat house.  We erected it late in the season so it’s unlikely it would become occupied this year.

It is a well built unit, of cedar, designed in accordance with the research done on Bats and conforms with the habitat they prefer.  All Bat Houses and Bat House Kits are not created equal, we found.

So, next spring we’ll see what happens. I think it will be cool to see them come and go.  The more the better, I say. 

Most bats in North America eat insects. It is reported that one bat can consume as many as 2,000 to 6,000 insects each night.  Many of the insects they eat are crop pests and many types of beetles.  Bats also eat insects like flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. We don’t have many crops in the vicinity.  We do have a small home garden plot.  I would wager that most of what the bats eat around here are mosquitoes. 

We live adjacent to a wetland area that is, of course,  a big mosquito breeding ground.  So, you see, the purchase of the Bat House was not totally altruistic.  The mosquitoes will carry you away if you don’t apply your repellant liberally (heavy on the DEET).

Check back in the Spring.  I will hopefully be able to report the presence of a breeding population of Little Brown Bats.

You have any thoughts on this or experience (good, bad, or funny)? If so, why not share your experiences by commenting below.
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Bat House Update

From the Chimney to the Bat House | First Bat inMid-June, 2012:  I looked up into the bat house with a powerful flashlight and saw a small brown fuzzy creature wondering who turned on the lights.  Hopefully, he’ll invite his buddies and we’ll increase the occupancy.  This model house will provide shelter for up to 300 bats.  When we get a few more bats, I’m hoping they’ll balance the mosquitos around here.


For additional information on Bat Houses:

Why Bat Houses are Important

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