Photo courtesy General Motors

Forest Service officials on the Finger Lakes and Green Mountain National Forests are teaming up with General Motors (GM) to install three bat houses completely made out of repurposed automotive materials to provide a safe place for the animals to live.

“Bats need our support,” said Wildlife Biologist, Greg Flood with the Finger Lakes National Forest. “This project is an innovative and creative way to turn what would be scrap material into recycled homes for many important species of bats,” he added.

The Chevy Volt, a plug-in, hybrid compact car, is manufactured at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.  Recognizing that the packing covers used on the Volt battery are difficult to recycle and normally end up as scrap materials, GM devised an ingenious plan – to create homes for bats. Through a unique partnership with the Organization for Bat Conservation and GM, the Forest Service has been able to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, create safe havens for bats on public lands, and provide stewardship opportunities for rural and urban audiences.  

The outside of this unique bat house is made from the Volt’s battery cover which is painted black. This allows the house to absorb the sun’s heat, in turn providing a perfect environment for bats. All of the wood and screws used in the construction of these bat boxes are from pallets used in shipping Chevy Volt parts. While GM provided the materials, the Forest Service and the Organization for Bat Conservation provided the construction power.  Each year, these “green” bat houses are built by volunteers during bat festivals hosted in both Detroit, MI and Milwaukee, WI.  Once the houses are built, they are sent off to national forests around the country.

“Bats are found in every state in the U.S. and these amazing animals are vital to the health of our environment and economy” said Flood. “They eat tons of insects every night and are the most important natural predators of night-flying insects, consuming mosquitoes, moths, beetles, crickets and much more.” Many of these insects are serious agricultural or forests pests, and others spread disease to humans or livestock.  Every year bats save us billions of dollars in pest control by simply eating insects. With declining habitats, bats need a safe, warm place to rest and to raise their young during the summer. Most bats in New York and Vermont only have one baby a year and having a safe home is vital to long-term survival.  Each bat house can hold up to 150 little brown bats, one of the most common species found in North America. “Forest Service employees will monitor the houses each summer to see what kind, and how many, bats start using these new homes,” said Flood. 

Bats are in decline nearly everywhere they are found. They face a multitude of threats including habitat loss, disturbance by humans, and much more.  Worldwide, about one quarter of bats are considered critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. In the United States and Canada, bats have declined dramatically as a fungal disease, White-Nose Syndrome, has killed over six million bats in six years.  

The Forest Service invites you to help bats on your property by installing a bat house of your own.  Building a bat house is a great way to attract and accommodate bats on your property.  There are a variety of designs of bat houses, and you can either make your own or purchase one.  One thing is for sure; your bat-tenants will pay you back with some wonderful benefits.

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