City seeks volunteers to build bat houses

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 6, 2021

 A bat house stands on the property of the Sterling Heights Nature Center. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking for volunteers to build more bat houses to install in the city’s parks.

A bat house stands on the property of the Sterling Heights Nature Center. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking for volunteers to build more bat houses to install in the city’s parks.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights parks officials are hoping that some crafty volunteers will go to bat to help the city.

The Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation Department is looking for volunteers such as Scouts who can build bat houses, which can give the flying mammals a place to rest that doesn’t bother residents.

Recreation Superintendent Matt Sharp said the city plans to properly install finished bat houses in the parks, paying a company to put them high enough in the trees for the bats’ comfort, adding that the bats “don’t want to be low to the ground.”

“We have a lot of parks, and we have a lot of mosquitoes. So we’re willing and able to partner with as many Boy Scout groups and (as) many Girl Scouts as possible,” he said.

Sharp said he has already talked to the father of an Eagle Scout candidate, and he hopes to hear from the Scout soon. He also said a couple of Girl Scout troops have shown interest in obtaining bat house kits.

Sharp described what a bat house looks like.

“You create a wooden box,” he said. “It’s very flat. It’s usually anywhere from 4 inches thick, up to 3 feet wide, 2 feet tall. You have to have a gap in the bottom, an echolocation chamber. It helps them find their way home. On the back side of the house is something that the bats can grasp onto: chicken wire or plastic mesh.”

According to the city, bats live in Sterling Heights as well as other suburban communities, and their role in the ecosystem benefits people because bats eat lots of mosquitoes, and they are important pollinators. The city said a bat can devour 500-1,000 mosquitoes per hour.

Brenda Suchenek, a recreation specialist and naturalist at the Sterling Heights Nature Center, said her center has a bat house in a wooded area at its southeast corner. The Parks and Recreation Department installed it, and the department’s goal is to eventually get more bat houses set up at different parks, she said.

Suchenek said Michigan is home to nine species of bats. She said they are small and nocturnal, and it’s not unusual to see them during twilight hours.

“Bats are beneficial because they eat thousands of insects, preferably mosquitoes, at night,” she said. “We have seen an uptick in mosquitoes this year. The bats have been more on the downside because they had a fungus that was killing them, white-nose (syndrome). It was wreaking havoc on the bat population.”

Suchenek added that the nature center plans to have an outdoor “’Tis Near Halloween” walk Oct. 20 that will spotlight favorite Halloween animals, like bats, cats and owls. She said people will need to register for the event in advance by visiting www.myshpr.net.

“It is also a full moon,” she added.

Anyone who can help the city by making a bat house is encouraged to call the Parks and Recreation Department at (586) 446-2700. Learn more about parks and Nature Center programs by visiting www.myshpr.net.

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