GOING BATTY: Tennille family builds houses for bats

Published 8:32 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

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There was a bit of nip in the air early Sunday morning as Donny Richards and his granddaughter, Lauren Allen, made their way down toward the pond. Richards was carrying a strange looking wood box and Lauren was scanning the Tennille landscape with an eagle’s eye.

She was looking for the ideal, if not the perfect, place for a bat house.

Lauren is a fourth-grade 4-H Club member at Ariton Elementary School. The 4-H’ers have been challenged with building bat houses as a club project. And, Lauren knew exactly who to ask for help… her granddad.

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Donny Richards custom makes Come Heah Tuh Me turkey calls at his shop in Brundidge. So, not only does he know something about winged creatures, he’s also good at woodworking.

Richards agreed to help with the project but he wanted Lauren to be involved as much as possible. And, that’s also what she wanted.

Together they forged ahead with Project Bat House. But first things first.

The granddad and granddaughter wanted to know about these night creatures they planned to house in the backyard. So, they read and read and what they learned was pretty amazing.

“What we learned was that most bats in the United States eat insects,” Richards said. “One bat can eat up to 10,000 mosquitoes a day. That’s a lot of mosquitoes.

“When I was growing up, I would shoot bats and swat at gnats. If I had not shot the bats, they would have eaten the mosquitoes that were eating on me.”

Richards and Lauren learned that some bats are endangered species. So, if the number of bats is decreasing and the number of mosquitoes is increasing, they decided to get busy building a bat house.
“There are a lot of plans for building bat houses and a lot of people are building them because most all of us are bothered by mosquitos,” Richards said. “Lauren and I picked out a bat house plan that we liked and one that would house a lot of bats.”

They chose a plan for a tall, 2 foot-plus, narrow wood bat house with three compartments.

“We had to cover the landing platform and inside of the house with screen wire,” Richards said. Laruen explained the screen will give something for the bats to cling to when landing and roosting.

The top of the house tilts so the rain will run off and there is an opening for ventilation.

“Bats are no bigger than a tiny mouse, so this house could hold about 150 bats,” Richards said. “Bats have four off -springs a year …in the spring,” Richards said

“And, they eat mosquitoes in the summer,” Lauren said, with a smile.

Richards and his granddaughter found just the right place for a bat house that is close to the pond and not so close to the house.

“I’m going to paint some vines and flowers on the bat house so it will be pretty,” Lauren said. “Then, maybe more bats will come to live in it.”

“We used to make gourds into house for martins,” Richards said. “The martins were supposed to eat mosquitoes. We didn’t know until later martins don’t dine on mosquitoes. Now, we’re building bat houses. If the bats eat as many mosquitoes as we think they will, we’ll be able to spend a lot more time outside in the summertime.”