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 hangings 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 box, 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 . . .