Story Collected by Karl Novak

The object I chose to bring to the story circle was a bat house - well, actually, a picture of a bat house as the one I was planning on bringing was being painted black. In addition to bats liking small, dark places like the 3/4" opening in the bat house, the black paint absorbs heat from the sun during the day. For this reason, my dad is going to place the bat house on a southeast facing fence or tree to absorb the most sunlight and warm in the late morning and early afternoon.

It is cool that my dad wanted to build a bat house because I have been very interested in bats ever since I was a little kid. My curiosity in the critter was piqued after travelling up north to my grandparents summer home on Lake Michigan, where my cousins and I would spend all of our time outdoors including at night with bonfires. My dad and uncles shared with our family how they noticed all of the bats flying and diving for bugs if they looked into the trees at nighttime. Since there was very little light, it was difficult for us as children to find the bats they were referring to. However, if you looked closely enough, you could see small silhouettes of dark bats against the night sky. My dad and uncles remembered that they, as children, would throw acorns or other small and natural matter into the night sky to "trick" the bats into thinking it was a large, tasty bug. It was so much fun for my cousins and I to do the same and to this day, I still use this trick when I see bats.

My dad told me the scrap wood our family saves in the basement from other leftover projects would be use to build the bat house. He found assembly instructions on the computer and realized we could use a screen mesh attached to the plywood to allow the bats to land and climb into the opening gap of the house.  Along with the wood, the screen was also extra material from replacing sections of it on our screen-in porch (the family cats keep jumping through the screen and breaking it), so all of the materials needed to construct the bat house were already available for use.

It is interesting how different reactions can be after I tell someone my family is trying to attract bats to our backyard. Other than at this Heritage Garden story circle, people tend to dislike bats either from disgust or fear, but I, along with many others, really like bats for their unique characteristics. For instance, they are the only flying mammals, they use echolocation for hunting pesky bugs like mosquitoes, and they can pollinate plants and eat seed-containing fruit - later to deposit it in a "natural fertilizer" called guano. Guano is sometimes even sold commercially due to its incredible ability of enriching soil and speeding up the composting process. Gardeners who use manure or other smelly composts will appreciate that guano has very little odor.  In my opinion, the use of echolocation is the coolest trait of microbats. Microbats (as opposed to megabats that have eyes and use vision for hunting) are blind and emit high frequency sound waves to bounce off of obstacles and even something as tiny as a mosquito to return to the bat's ears for pinpointing the location of their next meal. In person with the bats I have encountered, it sounds like a barely audible "clicking" sound that many would not recognize.

Bats tend to stay near bodies of water due to their production of bugs, so my dad was a bit skeptical when I first told him that I saw bats darting around in the night sky at my girlfriend's house a few blocks away. There is not any large source of water around either of our houses, but I have seen that bats are already in our neighborhood.  After building the bat house, my dad showed my older cousin's son the house to get him introduced in the idea of bats at a young age.  He was already interested, so we keep the family tradition alive by using bats as a natural way to help keep the ecosystem of our outdoor space healthy rather than being frightened by them. The bat is a symbol of good luck in China, and hopefully by building this bat house, my family can encourage this good luck, furry flying friend to join our block and bring with all of their benefits.