Father's Day DIY gift idea: Build a bat box
This Father’s Day, we’re taking dads back to their childhood with a superhero bat box, DIY style. Give dad a heartfelt, handmade gift with this fun activity for the whole family. It’s time to get out those tools, that leftover paint, a couple of nails, and a little bravery if needed.
The fact of the bat is:
- Most bats spend the summers in trees, under bridges, or in old buildings.
- They are a protected species in South Africa and it is illegal to harm them.
- They are not vampires (thank goodness). There are 3 species of bats which feed on the blood of large mammals, but they do not bite into human necks and suck our blood.
Why should you build a bat box?
- One bat box can host up to 50 brown bats, who in turn will eat thousands of bugs each night, hooray!
- Bats love to eat mosquitos, yippee! One little brown bat could eat over 1000 mosquito-sized insects in one night. Amazing!
- Bats play a role in plant pollination too. Fruit trees, night flowering plants, and a variety of other flora can all benefit from having more of these friendly pollinators around.
This project will require some basic carpentry skills. It’s a good idea to get dad involved in helping you build his gift.
- Table saw or handsaw
- Caulking gun
- Drill and drill bits
- Tape measure
- Staple gun (optional)
- Two clamps for clamping wood while you saw or drill
- Safety glasses for when you use power tools
- Piece of plywood: 60 cm x 120 cm x 1.5 cm
- Piece of cedar or pine board: 2.5 cm x 5 cm x 250 cm
- Piece of cedar or pine board: 2.5 cm x 10 cm x 60 cm
- Tube of paintable, nontoxic, latex caulk
- Exterior-grade, non-toxic, water-based paint or stain
- Wire or rubber mesh
- A super-cool Batman stencil
- Spray paint
Steps to building the bat house
1. Measure and cut the 60 cm x 120 cm x 1.5 cm piece of plywood into three pieces:
a. 60 cm x 65 cm (for the backplate)
b. 60 cm x 40 cm (for the top half of the front plate)
c. The remaining 60 cm x 15 cm piece will be used as the bottom half of the front plate
2. Cut grooves into the entire backplate (for the bats to hold on to), or attach wire or rubber mesh using a staple gun.
3. Measure and cut the 2.5 cm x 5 cm x 250 cm cedar board into one 60 cm piece and two 55 cm pieces. These are referred to as “furring strips,” and will be sandwiched between the front and backplates.
4. Apply caulk to all 3 of the furring strips and attach to the inside of the backplate (the side with the grooves/mesh).
5. Apply caulk to the other sides of the furring strips (that are now attached to the backplate), and attach the top section of the front plate first. Then, attach the bottom half of the front plate, leaving a 2 cm gap between the top and bottom halves for ventilation. Wait at least 30 mins for caulk to dry.
6. Apply caulk to the 2.5 cm x 10 cm x 60 cm cedar board and place on the top of the box, with the edges equally off the box, to function as the roof. Add one or two screws to the top corners to hold the roof in place.
7. Seal the entire box up by caulking every joint of the exterior of the box where wood touches wood. Bats want a dry home, free from drafts.
8. Add some screws through the front plate, the furring strips, and the backplate, to ensure the structure is firmly secured.
9. Apply your Batman stencil and spray paint away! Wait until all your stencils are complete dry.
10. Paint the exterior of the box with the water-based exterior paint/stain.
Where to position your bat box
These shelters need to be placed in a mostly sunny location. East-facing is usually best, where it will get morning light while being protected from afternoon sun. Position your bat house at least 5 metres off the ground to protect them against predators. A water source nearby would be super so that mommy bat doesn't have to leave her young for too long.
Visit the Life is a Garden website www.lifeisagarden.co.za for more fun in the garden project.