It was peculiar, I have to tell you. Throughout most of the spring we kept hearing scratching noises through the walls from the ceiling above our bedroom. We live outside Boston where there isn't a whole lot of mammal wildlife besides squirrels, mice, and sometimes skunks. So I figured it was mice up in the attic. I set some traps. I don't like killing them, I really don't, but when they get in the house, I worry; we have three kids.
Anyway, for months I wasn't catching anything in the traps. That's strange. In the past whenever I've had to set traps I've always found mice in them the next day. This time cheese didn't work, and neither did peanut butter. So finally in the beginning of July, I went up there again to have a look, and there they were--bats. Yikes, bats! A whole family, I supposed. Under the glare of my flashlight, they stretched their wings and yawned. I could see the insides of their little pink mouths.
Bats! A bat can consume up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour, I learned from an article I found by Merlin Tuttle in an old National Geographic. I wasn't worried about mice anymore. I loved having my bats up there in the attic, winging out over the yard at night, wiping out hordes of insects, coming in from the ponds and streams in the preserve land out back.
I sprung into action, found some books and your web site, and called and joined Bat Conservation International.
We had some fun, us and the neighbors, setting up chairs on the deck, sipping tea, watching at the break between daylight and dark as our guests dropped silently from the corner of the house above the gutter, and whooshed off into the trees. Twelve we counted in all, maybe 13, a whole colony of bats living in the attic above our bedroom. But alas, that lasted for only two nights. On the third night, only one or two bats came out.
What happened? Does anyone know where our bats went? This was July in Boston. Do they fly south? Did my flashlight make them feel unwelcome? We wracked our brains for weeks, then I finally figured it out. It was a fund raising party sent by you guys: the troop flies in, scratches around a bit, gets us to fall in love with them and send a check for $40, then off they go on their way to another family.
Good job, Bats! Really a smart idea! Seriously, though, it's good to be a member of your terrific organization.
Dear Mr. Estabrook,
We feel so silly--all this time we've been trying to train bats to sell cookies door to door; we didn't realize they only needed to show up and look cute!
In all seriousness, it's not unusual or surprising that the bats left your attic in mid-season. From your description, it sounds as though you had a bachelor colony. Such groups are not tied down to rearing young, and often move among a series of roosts over the course of a season. There is a good chance they will return at about the same time in years to come, so keep your eyes and ears open!
If you'd like to enjoy more predictable residents, you might consider providing bat houses, especially nursery houses. Odds are quite good that you could attract dozens or even hundreds of mother bats. A nursery colony is more likely to remain for the whole summer, offering you regular evening entertainment.
We particularly recommend you set up a back-to-back pair of houses between two poles. Following guidelines from BCI's Bat House Builder's Handbook and Bat House Researcher newsletter, you should mount the houses in a sunny location as near as possible to the bats' attic exits.
Bat houses, bat house kits, the Handbook, and subscriptions to the Researcher newsletter are all available through the BCI catalog at 1-800-538-BATS (in the U.S.) or 512-327-9721. Good luck in your future as a bat landlord!
BCI thanks John O'Hara of Philadelphia, PA, for his contribution this spring toward the purchase of much-needed photographic gear.