Ever thought about buying or building a bat box to help bats? Think carefully about the design and where you put it, University of Illinois researchers say.

Here’s why: Bats and their pups can overheat and die in poorly designed or placed bat boxes, and in a warming climate, it could happen more often.

Illinois bat ecologists Joy O’Keefe and Reed Crawford recently synthesized the available data on bat boxes, also known as bat houses or artificial roosts, to raise awareness of the issue and motivate change in bat box design, marketing, and consumer education. Their recommendations are published in Conservation Science and Practice.

“Conservation practitioners and homeowners are well-intentioned; they want to help bats. Inevitably, the first thing they do is go online and buy a bat house,” says Crawford, a doctoral student in the Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology at Illinois. “But unfortunately, a lot of bat houses on the market are small and painted dark colors, and they get hot really quickly. They’re likely to hurt bats if they’re installed in the wrong spot.

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