Evaluating bat boxes: design and placement alter bioenergetic costs and overheating risk

Reed D. Crawford, Luke E. Dodd, Francis E. Tillman, Joy M. O'Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bat box microclimates vary spatially and temporally in temperature suitability. This heterogeneity subjects roosting bats to a variety of thermoregulatory challenges (e.g. heat and cold stress). Understanding how different bat box designs, landscape placements, weather and bat use affect temperature suitability and energy expenditure is critical to promote safe and beneficial artificial roosting habitat for species of conservation concern. From April to September 2019, we systematically deployed 480 temperature dataloggers among 40 rocket box style bat boxes of 5 designs and regularly monitored bat abundance. We used bioenergetic models to assess energy costs for endothermic and heterothermic bats and modelled the overheating risk for each box as a function of design, placement, bat abundance and weather. For endothermic bats, predicted daily energy expenditure was lower for solar-exposed placements, large group sizes and a box design with enhanced thermal mass. For heterothermic bats, shaded landscape placements were the most energetically beneficial and bat box design was not important, because all designs generally offered microclimates suitable for torpor use at some position within the box. Overheating risk was highest for solar-exposed landscape placements and for designs lacking modifications to buffer temperature, and with increasing bat abundance, increasing ambient temperature and slower wind speeds. The external water jacket design, with the greatest thermal mass, concomitantly decreased overheating risk and endothermic energy expenditure. By assessing bat box suitability from two physiological perspectives, we provide a robust method to assess the conservation value of bat box design and placement strategies. We recommend future studies examine how changing thermal mass and conductance can be used to diminish overheating risk while also enhancing the effects of social thermoregulation for bat box users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbercoac027
JournalConservation Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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