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Evidence Suggests Bats Will Inhabit College-Constructed ‘Condo’

The bat “condo” constructed at Maple Hill United Methodist Church by students at Pennsylvania College of Technology isn’t teeming with roosting Little Brown Bats yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time, says a state Game Commission expert who visited the site recently.

Cal Butchkoski, a Harrisburg-based wildlife technician for the Game Commission who specializes in the flying furry mammals, notes that “scout” bats have visited the condo, and some guano from the species ( Myotis lucifugus) was found in the structure when it was opened for inspection.

Butchkoski praised the work done by the students who built the nearly 2-ton condo at the Brady Township site under the supervision of Donald Nibert, assistant professor of forestry in Penn College’s School of Natural Resources Management. He said it has the proper design elements for success, including the heat levels that bats, particularly pregnant females, need to thrive.

About 500 bats have taken up residence in a much smaller bat “house” next to the church, where a breeding colony of 3,000 bats caused problems for many years until the congregation took steps to seal the building and install new siding. Butchkoski believes the bats in the smaller house and perhaps some of their friends will eventually wind up in the much larger condo, which was the third such structure to be built in Pennsylvania.

“I think if we give them a little time, they’re going to accept this,” he said. “Bats are cautious. But this is the best time to have it ready.”

Nibert noted the trial-and-error nature of attracting bats to the condo. Initially, droppings from the Big Brown Bat species ( Eptesicus fuscus) were placed on the floor of the structure, because they were the only type readily available. That may have kept some Little Brown Bats away, he concedes.

“This is a learning experience,” he explained.

Inside, the condo features 86 sheets of plywood that form baffles, which had to be roughened on both sides so the bats can find footholds. The Game Commission supplied the materials, purchased at cost from the Lowe’s store in Montoursville, and Penn College’s Forest Technology students provided the labor. The square structure is 8 feet wide on each side and rests upon 10-foot-tall treated-wood posts.

The condo is located about 150 yards from the church and 30 yards from tree cover. A black-shingled roof retains heat, and the condo is sealed on the sides to prevent heat loss.

Nibert said the Game Commission has been instrumental in completing the bat-condo project and others that have been tackled by the School of Natural Resources Management.

“They basically will do anything they can to assist us in the classes,” he said.

Nibert also emphasized the important work that bats perform in controlling insect populations.

According to the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office publication “A Homeowner’s Guide to Northeastern Bats and Bat Problems,” one bat can consume 500 insects in an hour, or nearly 3,000 per night. A colony of 100 Little Brown Bats can consume a quarter-million mosquitoes and other small insects in an evening.

Other bat condos in Pennsylvania are located in Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County and at Hoover Island on the Susquehanna River, south of Selinsgrove .

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