Bat boxes

Created July 2006
Updated Feb 2017

Photo Daniel Fellman

Is it worth installing them?

Bats use boxes differently from birds, dropping into them from time to time rather than taking up permanent residence. At any one time probably only a small proportion of boxes will be in use, but boxes do give the bats additional choices. The highest rate of occupancy seems to occur in coniferous woodland where there are few appropriate natural roosting sites available, but they may be well used even in what seems to be a habitat rich in suitable roost sites

Where should I site them?

Photo Jude Hirstwood

There is no hard and fast rule, but it is best to put boxes facing south or south east. North facing boxes tend to be too cold.They need to be placed sufficiently high above the ground to allow the bats to swoop down on exit . The bat box to  the left is unlikely to attract bats as there is not a clear exit route through the branches

You want to place the box out of the reach of vandals and cats, but not so high that you cannot check the box. Research by the North Bucks group suggests that putting bird boxes next to bat boxes dissuades birds from roosting in a bat box as birds in the bird box will defend their territory

What sort of design should I use?

Kent Bat Box Photo Jude Hirstwood

Many of the boxes you can buy at garden centres are actually useless (as well as over expensive). The hole at the base needs to be very small or you will find they are being occupied by birds – especially tits.Many designs of box can only be checked by disturbing them, which can only  done by a licensed bat worker. It is for this reason that the bat group is especially fond of the Kent Bat box) as this can be checked without any disturbance to bats and because it lacks a floor . In trials at Priory Country Park we had evidence of bats occupying Kent boxes within 3 months of their installation .

The design of the box is very simple and can easily be assembled by children. In 2010-2011 we made over 200 boxes with a range of groups.Download a plan for the Kent Box Kent Bat box design
Download an illustrated leaflet on how to make a Kent Bat Box Kent Bat Box leaflet
Download a Bedfordshire Bat Group leaflet on siting bat boxes  Box installation leaflet
BCT also has a design for a more complex box which you can download The Vincent Wildlife Trust has produced a design which can be checked without disturbance . You can download a pdf design from their website

Monitoring Boxes

Photo Bob Cornes

It is essential that boxes are monitored regularly. All too often organisations put up a few bat boxes and think that they can then forget about bats and tick them off their list. This is not the case. Once you have found a bat in a box under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 this can only be done in the presence of a licensed bat worker if you are in Bedfordshire, contact us and we will put you in contact with one locally. You must avoid disturbing them during the breeding season. Contact us if you need advice. The advantage of the Kent Box is it can be checked without disturbing the bats and so a licence is not necessary.

Currently the Bedfordshire Bat group is running bat box projects at Priory Country  Park Bedford, Luton, Harrold Odell Country Park, Woburn Centre Parks. Stockgrove, Rushmere and Kings Wood.

Read  Danny Fellman’s report on bat boxes at Priory 2011  Batboxes at Priory 2011

Bob Cornes and Danny Fellman have written up the first five years of the Priory Park Box scheme. This article will be published in the Bedfordshire Naturalist, the journal of the Bedfordshire Natural History Society (2014) Bat Boxes at Priory Country Park

For more information contact Danny at prioryrangers@bedford.gov.uk or Bob at bats(at)bnhs.org.uk replacing the brackets and “at” with @)