Bat House in the Clouds

BatCloud

The Bat Cloud is an eco-sculpture designed to encourage and support local bat populations. Architectural professor, Joyce Hwang, at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, developed the Bat Cloud project, a canopy of hanging vessels to house and support bats. This installation is at the Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo, NY., a part of Buffalo Museum of Science.

From afar, the vessels appear like a cloud, hovering just below the tree canopy. As you move in closer, you see Viola bicolor planted in the base of each vessel. Each vessel is designed in such a way to allow bats to enter and roost its uppermost cylindrical tower.

The vessels are also designed for the bat guano to collect below in the soil-filled pouch for fertilization of the planting. Water slowly drains from the planting pouch to maintain the vegetation.

The installation aims to draw attention to an animal critical to the ecosystem, currently disappearing in record numbers. Bats serve as a natural pesticide and are valuable evening pollinators. The installation addresses the ecology of the area and expresses sustainability through the medium of art.

BatHouses

Bats exploit a variety of shelters as long as they are dark and shadowy, mostly warm and damp. They are common in caves, rock and tree crevices, bridges, barns, and even attics. They are social by nature and will roost in huge colonies. Temperate zone bats will hibernate and are very dependent on roost environments. Others will migrate.

littlebrownbat

source – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

A Little Brown Bat can eat 1,200 mosquitoes an hour, and having some of them around when you are having a summer evening picnic is not a bad idea.

Little Brown Bat, also known as the northern long-eared bat, northern myotis, is one of nine bat species found in New York State and have been seen at Tifft.

little-brown-bat

Myotis lucifugus – Little Brown Bat

Bats are not the only flying creature at Tifft. Did you know they are the only flying mammal in the world? Water is quite plentiful at Tifft, meaning there are quite a few insects for the bats to prey upon. Below is a couple of amorous dragonflies at Tifft.

MatingDragonflies

MatingDragonfliesFlight

They are really fast, so sorry I was not prepared to get a clean shot.

HERON-2

This green heron was also looking for prey.

Heron

Now that is some determination on the bird’s face.

HeronFrog

A frog takes one for the team. The Bat Cloud is just beyond this large frog pond, through the small clearing.

TifftLake

A serious threat to bats, and why helping to provide for them is so important, is a disease known as white-nose syndrome. It has be decimating colonies all across the Northeast US. Here is what the USGS National Wildlife Health Center has to say, “emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 19 states and four Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Geomyces destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats.”

The map below shows the spread. Here is the source.

wns_by_county

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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49 Responses to Bat House in the Clouds

  1. Those bat houses are very cool. I’ll have to see if they would be worth putting up in my area. Of course, I’m not sure how high I could hang them. Not much of a tree climber. I love the expression created by the eyes and beak of the green heron!

    • They are very different than what we commonly see as bat houses. I tried contacting Joyce, but did not leave a message for her to call back. My questions would have been, “Are the vessels successful at attracting local bats, if bats are still in the area?” They have many design features that seem to support a bat’s interest. Also I would ask, “How many bats is each unit designed to hold?”

      That heron looked really peeved for some reason. He or she was very good at catching food. Poor frogs.

  2. Shirley says:

    This is a fascinating project and the bat houses shown are so pretty. We used to have so many bats in our area you could literally feel them in the air, now there are far fewer and a number of projects underway to preserve them.

    • I saw bats in my yard this summer on a few evenings. They were flying through the yard really fast. Bat houses have to be hung very specifically and I have nowhere to place one. I was wondering if they were living in my garage. I have a chimney flue in there (I never lit a fire in it though) and it would make a great habitat for them. Plus I found dead mice at the base of the small fireplace too.

  3. What Great Info – thanks for sharing! There were bat houses around the farm I grew up on and still do my part today not so much for bats, but for the birds, bees and other creatures that visit our front and back gardens. Have a Great One:)

  4. It is sad to see the bats still not recovering enough…in our area we don’t see them anymore and my bat house stays empty…it will be taken down as we take down our trees and rehung eventually…maybe by then they will return.

  5. sharon says:

    Where can I get some…we have tons of mosquitos here!

  6. I know there are bats in our area because we had them in our house three years in a row. They didn’t have a nest; we just got a stray juvenile trying to cool off during an exceptionally hot summer. We had to use a butterfly net to get it out. I don’t mind having bats around, but I do insist that they stay in their own houses!

  7. Those are the most creative bat houses I’ve ever seen. I have a few bats at my house, but not nearly enough to keep the mosquito population at bay. Need more brown bats!

  8. Bats are actually amazing creatures. They breathe life into several flora and fauna, am I right? Those bat houses just serve them right, sort of a sign of appreciation for the roles they play in life. =>

  9. Great house/sculpture. I really like bats and all the bug removal they do for us. We may not have them round long with this white nose disease killing them off. That is one intense heron. Sorry I haven’t been around much—-overwhelmed!!!!

    • If you saw in a previous comment I made above, White Nose fungus “quickly wiped out 80 to 98 percent of little brown bats in NYS. Scientists predicted that little brown bats would be extinct within a few decades.” This shows how serious a problem it has become.

  10. Andrea says:

    I hope you will update us also on this bat project, i am very curious about it too. We have bats in our area, but fruit bats, haven’t really searched about them though. They are our enemies in our garden as they just come when our lanzones (Lansium domesticum) are already starting to ripen. We tried wrapping the fruit bunches when they start to yellow but fruit bats know how to unwrap them, ingenious creatures, huh! We only have 4 plants so the fruits are so precious for us in the family. Some people suggested nets, but the size of the canopy limits us in doing that. The trees are very near the house so sometimes we wake up with their noise while eating the fruits. The bad habit is that they sometimes pick the unripe ones and then just throw on the ground, what a waste.

    This year my sister put a strong light on the eaves directed to the tree, and i guess that deter them a bit. I wonder if that is the reason, or maybe there are some other preferable fruits in other areas.

    • I should do a post on the plight of the bats. I have been reading environmental studies and it is sad what seems to be occurring. I was asked in college by my biology faculty adviser to be an assistant to a study he was doing in bat caves in Virginia. As interesting of research as this was, I was too squeamish around bats, so I declined. I think now I would have done the research.

  11. TufaGirl says:

    When I lived south Texas (there are many bat caves) and it was great fun to see the bats fly in the dusky beginning of darkness on a warm spring night. The bats had returned from Mexico. Folks there used narrow flat houses affixed in an area to allow their flight into the house and placed the houses in areas where they would receive warm during the day.

    Those houses look odd to me knowing the habits of the bats here. Have they actually been using them? Great concept using the whole biosystem for something so pretty.

    • I felt the same way and put a call into the designer. I did not call back because I was unsure how to ask the questions without expressing doubt. I did not think they would be dark enough, or would be able to support a colony in the way bats roost. The units seem to address heat and ventilation. I kind questioned bat safety though. The units are not structured, and easy to access for a predator. I did read her work and she seemed to know bat biology, which I don’t. That is what made it uncomfortable to ask the questions that I had.

  12. Great and very interesting post! Love the concept of the bat cloud sculpture! Here in Austin, we have the largest urban population of Mexican Free-Tailed bats in North America. The colony of 1.5 million live under the Congress Avenue Bridge downtown. They provide so many benefits to the Eco-system here — including keeping our insect population in check (which is always a bonus!). Also, your pictures of the green heron are beautiful!
    Kenley

  13. A.M.B. says:

    What a wonderful project! Bats are critical to our environment and don’t deserve the negative reputation they still seem to have. I love the heron pictures (I could look at bird pictures all day long!).

  14. Karen says:

    Love the bat houses. Thanks goodness the disease you mention apparently hasn’t made it to Illinois yet. The Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo actually has a bat listening project! As always, great photos!

    • I am unsure how far the fungus has moved. It started in a cave in Schoharie County, NY. in February of 2006 here in the US. The USGS National Wildlife Heath Center says, “White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 19 states and four Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease.” I will revise the post and add the map from their site.

  15. Fossillady says:

    Sifting through the comments, I see that there are concerns about the bat population. I didn’t know about this so thanks for sharing. I see them quite often here in my Michigan neighborhood when I take a night walk down my secluded street. They don’t bother me, just fly around overhead at a comfortable distance! Cheers, Kathi aka fossillady

  16. HolleyGarden says:

    Love the bat cloud! I have noticed fewer bats here lately – actually, I have been missing them entirely – so I have been considering getting some bat houses. I hope they will use them. I hadn’t thought about the bat guano. That’s a good point, and something to think about!

    • Bat houses have to be carefully placed. We had some installed on one client’s property. They were your typical houses, not like the ones on the post. She watches the bats from her back porch. The houses worked out great. I specially ordered them and they were professionally installed.

  17. Bats really creep me out–we have a humorous family story, too long to tell here. But if I explained it, you’d probably understand my shivers. I appreciate bats and their place in the ecosystem, but I just don’t want to see them. 😉 We seem to have plenty of them around here. Shiver…

    • I always felt that way too. They have nasty little faces. I had to catch one that got into my house in PA and I was really creeped out. I got it with a net, and luckily it did not get stuck in the net.

  18. First , didn’t mention your penguin header before…love it!! When you said bat house, I was thinking bat boxes, these are really different looking.
    Great shot of the Green Heron. They walk like an old man. 😉

  19. Marguerite says:

    Very different from the typical bat houses I have seen. I keep thinking I need to research bat houses a little more. We found a bat in our attic when we moved into this house and shooed him out quickly. I have never seen another one and putting some houses up might be just the trick to entice a few of them our way.

  20. Jennifer says:

    There used to be a large colony of bats in the belfry of the church up the street, but they seem to be gone now. I suspect they were making a mess and the church took steps to get rid of them. I miss seeing them swoop by when we are out on our evening walk. We are close by the river here and we need all the help we can get with the ravenous mosquitoes. I would love to find a way to encourage the bats to return to the area.

  21. Nadezda says:

    I loved this idea to make bad houses. I think it may help the problem.

  22. I love that bathouse, beauty and practicality all in one. I am yet to see bats here, though I am hoping there are some. I used to live on the mainland not far from here in the summers, and there was always a huge group of bats roosting in the tree outside our accommodation. I loved to watch them flit around in the evening light.

    • They are fun to watch. I see them fly by the powder room window, but they do it so fast, like the hummingbirds. I am not sure what I am growing that they like, but I do have a lot of white blooming plants. I am going to have to pay attention next summer.

  23. Les says:

    The bat houses are a really innovative idea, and God know whatever we can do to help the bats out. I have read about white-nose syndrome, and it has the potential to change eco-systems.

    • I have read that as well. It seems that so much in nature is being decimated from one way or another. If it is not bees, it is bats. Soon we will be worrying how our food gets pollinated. Habitats are being lost at record rates and what suffers is all that lives in or on them.

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