Bats don't get the best press, Martyn Loach thinks that's probably because they're not cuddly, only come out at night and have an undeserved reputation for getting tangled in your hair. But they're fascinating mammals that reflect a healthy environment and in the UK face various threats to their habitat.
This is why every garden needs a bat box or artificial roost. You can build a bat box at home or buy one, bearing in mind that different bat species have contrasting requirements.
Ready Made Bat Box
The Wildlife World Oak Bat Box is double chambered and will provide the perfect habitat for many bats. Solidly constructed to give good insulation and to protect from predators, there's an access ladder and hinged front door providing access for inspection and cleaning.
Locate the bat box as high as possible (at least 4m – 5m above the ground), or just under the eaves of a house, in a sheltered sunny place.
Making Your Own Bat Box
To make your own bat box remember that bats do not like draughts and prefer a well insulated environment in which temperature and humidity is constant. So make sure joints are tight fitting and sealed.
Rough textured wood is also important, giving the bats something to cling onto.
Use untreated timber for the bat box, as bats are very sensitive to chemicals. A bat ladder or similar landing area is essential and the entry slit should be wide enough (15mm – 20mm) for bats to get in but not predators.
Best Chance Of Success
Bat boxes are more likely to be populated if the are placed in areas where bats are known to feed. It's a good idea to face boxes in different directions, so providing a variety of conditions.
Interestingly, some bats use a line of trees or hedgerow to navigate, so placing a bat box near these features may help.
Don't hold your breath if bats don't immediately arrive, it might take several years for the bat box to be occupied. One warm evening though you'll hear chattering noises from the inside and you'll know that the wait has been worthwhile.
For more information on bats refer to the Bat Conservation Trust website.