Intercom Online......May 4, 2000

Penn College forest technology
students save bat colony

With their prolific ability to control insect pests, bats make good neighbors. As houseguests, though, the diminutive nocturnal predators quickly wear out their welcome.

That's what happened at Maple Hills United Methodist Church near Williamsport where, for 25 years, a breeding colony of about 3,000 Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) has caused a slew of problems, including foul odors and showers of bat droppings whenever the church bell rings. The church congregation finally had enough and opted to evict the bats by sealing the opening through which the tiny mammals enter the structure and by installing new siding.

To offer a housing alternative, and to keep thousands of ousted bats from roosting in neighboring homes, the state Game Commission, Penn College and Lowe's joined forces to construct a "bat condo" which weighs nearly two tons and is capable of holding 6,000 adult Little Brown Bats and 6,000 of their offspring.

The condo is just the third of its kind to be built in Pennsylvania, said Donald Nibert, assistant professor of forestry at Penn College and coordinator of construction for the project.

"A great deal of labor is involved in the construction," Nibert said. "I can understand why there are only two others in the state. There are 86 sheets of plywood inside the condo forming baffles, which must be scraped 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 approximately 75 forest technology students from Penn College have provided the labor to build the 8-foot-by-8-foot structure, which is expected to be placed on 10-foot-tall, 6-inch-by-6-inch treated-wood posts this week. The condo will be positioned 150 yards from the church on a concrete base.

The hope is the bats will take up residence in the condo and continue to provide the vital service at which they excel. Bats are the only major predator of night-flying insects. A single bat can consume nearly 3,000 insects a night.

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