It may have been a cold and snowy weekend, but that didn’t stop us from have a very fun and successful bat house building workshop here at the Zoo on January 14. This was the third event for our Family Community Service program, through which we provide opportunities for people in our local community to join folks from the Zoo in fun, hands-on and local conservation projects.
A group of about 50 people – a mix of local families, Zoo staff, and even members of the Rockdale Academy’s Green Team – came out to the Zoo on Sunday around 1:00pm. Jeff Brown, a local bat researcher, talked about the importance of bats in our area and why building houses for them helps. There are around 14 species of bat found in Ohio, including little brown bats, big brown bats, and the endangered Indiana bat. Our local bats are all insectivores, meaning they eat insects. A single bat can eat thousands of bugs in just one night, so they are an important natural insect control.
Currently, bats are threatened by white-nose syndrome – a deadly disease caused by a fungus that grows over the muzzle of hibernating bats, waking them up when they should be hibernating in caves and mines during the cold winter months. Building houses for bats offers safe places for bats that survive the winter to roost and raise young in the summer and help to rebuild local bat populations.
After two hours of caulking, drilling and painting, we successfully built 20 houses. Each of these houses can fit around 150 bats, including mothers who will give birth and raise their pups. Once the houses are installed, we will have created safe places for up to 3,000 bats that live in the Cincinnati area! Toward the end of the building, Jeff talked about where to put the houses and how to set them up. Bat houses should be at least 10 feet off the ground and nailed to a sturdy tree or 4×4 post facing the east or south so they get plenty of warm sun during the day.
As folks finished up their painting and waited for their houses to dry, Kathy Edelen from EchoBats brought in a couple of rescued big brown bats to give everyone a closer look at the animals they were helping to protect. EchoBats is a local non-profit whose mission is to teach the community the importance and value of bats.
Even though we ended up covered in paint, we had a lot of fun learning about bats and creating new spaces for them to live. The groups left with bat houses in tow, ready to put them up and excited to see what they would bring come spring time.
If you have a bat house in your yard, or even if you just happen to find a place where bats live during the warmer seasons, you can report your observations to the Ohio Bat Roost Monitoring Project and help the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) study summer roosting sites of Ohio bats.
While we wait for the warm weather to come and bring the bats, our next event will be Milkweed for Monarchs on February 24 at the Cincinnati Nature Center. We will prepare milkweed seeds to be planted in the spring.
Sound like fun? Join us! Learn more about the Family Community Service program and how to get involved here.