Saving the Bats . . . The Bat Hotel


Bats are pretty amazing little mammals and great to have around our country house.  They not only devour insects like mosquitos and gnats, which are a major nuisance when eating outside on the terrace in the evenings, but they also delight with their aerial acrobatics at dusk.

While bats get a bum rap (especially in horror movies) we owe a lot of the balance of nature to bats.  In fact, bat guano (= excrement = a polite word for poop) is a major part of a healthy ecosystem by returning nitrogen and other nutrients back into the environment. Bats can eat up to their full weight in night-flying insects, and some species are critical in pollinating fruits and flowers.  Despite the positive role bats play as pollinators and insect eaters, over 40% of bats are now endangered or threatened due to destruction of habitat.

As a former biologist I pretty much knew about the beneficial aspects of bats and the importance of having plenty of places for them to roost during the day, but it wasn’t until I discovered a terrible unintended consequence that I got motivated to help increase the bat population around our house in the French countryside.

On a trip through Spain one year we bought several brightly painted ceramic wall ceramicshangings to adorn the walls of our outdoor terrace.  One was a stylised sunburst and several were representations of cicadas, with open mouths and a deep cavern inside.  They make great receptacles for dried flowers and small sunflowers to adorn the outside walls. But in the winter they just hang there, empty,  looking pretty against the stone wall.

So one spring I was out on the terrace doing some sweeping of leaves and cleaning of cobwebs when I took down all the ceramic cicadas to dust them off.  To my sadness, I found each one with 3-5 dead bats inside!  Obviously the bats thought they had a nice dark roosting place, but the inside walls were so slick they couldn’t climb out at night, so they must have either starved or frozen to death over the winter.  Carnage on my own terrace.

It was obvious we needed proper roosting places so I got on the internet and searched around for how to make a “bat box” to provide them with a communal roosting place and shelter from the cold air. Luckily the Internet was full of Do It Yourselfers who had posted plans, drawings and even videos on how to design and build a bat box.

I headed for the cellar and my workshop and scrounged around in boxes of odd pieces of wood left over from other woodworking projects and came up with enough material to build my bat box.

At this point you can tell I have “entrepreneurial DNA” since I was perfectly happy with scraps and leftovers rather than heading out to the lumber store for all the “exact” material listed in the plans I pulled off the Internet.  One characteristic of entrepreneurs is they are happy with “done, instead of perfect” and that’s why entrepreneurial companies are so agile and responsive to changes in their business landscape.  They want to get their products working, out into the marketplace, get customer feedback, and keep improving. Give the same plans for a bat box to an aerospace or defense engineering company and a month later you might have a costly, but perfect, bat box.

Anyway, the bat box is up and my daughter decided it looked more like a hotel than a Bat hotelbox, so she got the ladder, some blue paint and wrote on the outside.  Just in case the bats needed an incentive or at best a description of what that contraption hanging up in the beams of the terrace was for.

Doing my part to help the balance of nature.

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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