Inquiring Minds
3:00 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Inquiring Minds - Bat Houses

Flagstaff, AZ – There's a housing crisis in the ponderosa pine forest. With a lack of big, standing dead trees, bats are in search of a place to live. . .maybe with you.

This is inquiring minds, insights from the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Bats provide a lot of benefits to the forest. Wildlife ecologist Dr. Carol Chambers says they fertilize soil, pollinate plants and eat all kinds of insects.

There are 20 different kinds of bats squeaking and echo-locating across northern Arizona. Most weigh less than two Hershey's Kisses, but these ravenous nocturnal creatures are eating far more than their weight in pests.

One small bat can eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour!

Keeping up with that appetite is exhausting, so finding a safe place to rest is critical. If they can't find it in the woods, they'll roost under the eaves of nearby houses.

Many of the bats Chambers studies prefer to sleep and have their babies under the loose bark of fat, old pine trees. But she says those trees are increasingly scarce.

("We have a lot of trees, but you don't often see a lot of dead trees, and when you do, they're usually not really large, dead trees. And the bats that we've been studying use trees that are 25 to 30 inches in diameter.")

While efforts are underway to restore forests and grow large old trees, wildlife biologists are providing artificial habitat for bats.

These bat condos are square wedges, about two feet wide by two feet tall, molded and painted to look like bark and mounted to the trunks of pine trees. There are about a hundred around Flagstaff.

Chambers says they appear to be fooling the bats, increasing the number of suitable bat homes and keeping them out of ours.