By Jackie Nelson
HESSTON—Noah LeFevre has loved bats since childhood. Inspired by the Christopher Nolan Batman films, LeFevre developed an interest in the world’s only flying mammal.
“I looked into it and thought bats were cool and unique. I didn’t realize how popular, common or diverse they were until I looked into it as a fourth grader,” he said.
As a young adult pursuing an Eagle Scout badge, LeFevre wants to provide more space for bats in the Hesston community.
“Two years ago, I went to a lecture at the Arboretum, and it talked about bats dying off due to fungal disease—bats that didn’t have permanent homes,” he said. Two years later, “it was in the back of my head. I really like bats, and Hesston could use fewer insects. I put the two ideas together, and making bat houses was the easiest way to do it.”
LeFevre has been involved with Scouts since early childhood, working his way up the ranks with the help of his father, Ron.
“The things I was learning were useful, and it is overall fun. I really enjoyed it,” he said.
For his Eagle Scout project, LeFevre approached the Hesston City Council for permission to place bat box houses at King Park, Emma Creek Park and Interstate Park, along with $200 in funding for the project. The council granted LeFevre both permission and funding.
LeFevre said the locations were chosen for their access to water, trees and open air. He said the bat boxes will be on 12-foot poles in the parks, with annual inspections to ensure they are still in good condition. Each bat house is designed for a breeding pair of bats and their offspring, meaning anywhere from one to 10 bats in a house.
“It can take a while, one to even five years, for bats to move in. But once they are there, they tend to stay,” LeFevre said.
The addition of bat houses will have a notable effect on the insect population at the parks, as LeFevre noted one bat consumes about 6,000 insects per night.
“The biggest challenge is just the general fear of bats,” LeFevre said.
The two species that will make their homes in the Hesston bat boxes are the native Little Brown Bat and Big Brown Bat.
“They are really creative when it comes to names,” LeFevre noted.
He hopes in helping create permanent homes for bats, residents will become more accepting and appreciative of the insect-eating mammals.
“There is a mystery how they evolved. They look like mice and other rodents but have hollow bones like birds. It is impressive how fast and efficient they are. And echolocation is very interesting. They’re just screaming into the night, and waves are coming back and they understand it,” he said.
LeFevre plans to enlist the help of fellow Hesston troop members to construct and place boxes this winter.
“I’m thrilled to be bringing a native species more places to live around Hesston and help us as we help them. I’m bringing something new to town that I don’t think most people would try,” he said.