Improving the science and practice of using artificial roosts for bats

Reed D Crawford, Joy M O'keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Worldwide, artificial bat roosts (e.g., bat boxes, bark mimics, bat condos) are routinely deployed for conservation, mitigation, and community engagement. However, scant attention has been paid to developing best practices for the use of artificial roosts as conservation tools. Although bats readily occupy artificial roosts, occupancy and abundance data are misleading indicators of habitat quality. Lacking information on bat behavior, health, and fitness in artificial roosts, their conservation efficacy cannot be adequately validated. We considered the proximal and ultimate factors, such as evolutionarily reliable cues, that may prompt bats to preferentially use and show fidelity to suboptimal artificial roosts even when high-quality alternatives are available. Possible negative health and fitness consequences for artificial roost inhabitants include exposure to unstable and extreme microclimates in poorly designed roosts, and vulnerability to larger numbers of ectoparasites in longer lasting artificial roosts that house larger bat colonies than in natural roosts. Bats using artificial roosts may have lower survival rates if predators have easy access to roosts placed in conspicuous locations. Bats may be lured into occupying low-quality habitats if attractive artificial roosts are deployed on polluted urban and agricultural landscapes. To advance the science behind artificial bat roosts, we present testable research hypotheses and suggestions to improve the quality of artificial roosts for bats and decrease risks to occupants. Because continued loss of natural roosts may increase reliance on alternatives, such as artificial roosts, it is imperative that this conservation practice be improved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14170
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
Early online dateAug 31 2023
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • artificial roost
  • natural roost
  • fitness
  • conservation
  • ecological trap
  • bat house
  • bat box
  • trampa ecológica
  • caja de murciélagos
  • casa de murciélagos
  • conservación
  • percha natural
  • percha artificial
  • adaptabilidad

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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