Bats in Churches Project

Could your Church be an important part of bat conservation in Staffordshire?

 

What is the Bats in Churches Project?

The Bats in Churches Project was first launched in 1991 by the Bat Conservation Trust to gain a greater understanding of how bats use churches as roost sites across England.  An estimated 60% of the 8000 medieval parish churches in England are believed to be used by bats for at least part of the year and so the BCT were keen to learn more about what characteristics associated with churches were important for bats.

Another key aim of the project was to promote a greater awareness of bat conservation, especially towards the decline in British species and their subsequent legal protection.

 

How is the Staffordshire Bat Group helping the project?

Staffordshire Bat Group are helping the BCT on a local level to meet the aims of the project across the county.  The group has a dedicated Project Officer who collates records of roosts and provides advice to churches about bat conservation.

Initially the group aim to cover as many churches across Staffordshire as possible using simple questionnaires to assess the presence of bats.  In the future there may be opportunities to survey a sample of churches to record populations and species present at known roosts.  As all members of Staffordshire Bat Group are volunteers, this is obviously restricted.

If you would like more information about the Bats in Churches Project, please contact The Bat Conservation Trust.  There are also a list of FAQs below that may help.

 


 

Frequently Asked Questions about Bats in Churches

1) Why are roosts in Churches important?

Bat numbers have declined significantly over the last 50 years.  Although bats investigate and colonise new sites, they are often faithful to good quality roosts. Some churches may have been used by bats for many generations.

2) Why would bats use a Church as a roost?

To a bat a church may be a lot like a cave – the stone walls provide even temperatures and humidity levels and many parish churches have been added to or repaired over the years, providing a bat with lots of nooks, crannies and crevices to squeeze into.  Often the churchyard has mature trees, shrubs and areas of grassland which attracts insects, and increasingly, churchyards are being managed with wildlife in mind.

Often the presence of the bats is unnoticed, particularly if they are using the roof space.  However, they do sometimes gain entry into the church itself and this is when they may get noticed.  If you find an injured bat, you should contact the  Bat Conservation Trust  to gain further information

3) When might bats be found in Churches?

Bats may not be present in the Church all year as they will have several roosts in the local area that they will use at different times of the year or during different weather conditions.  Church bats are most likely to be noticed between June and September and the presence of bats around June and July may indicate a maternity roost. Bats can live up to 20 – 30 years but only produce one baby a year, so these maternity roosts are very important to bat conservation.

4) Are bats in a Church a problem?

In general, NO.  Bats are very clean animals and the numbers which may be using a church would rarely be enough to cause a problem.  The main cause for concern is when they can access the interior of the church.  When this happens, they may fly around inside the church, leaving evidence of their presence such as droppings or even discarded moth or butterfly wings.  Their droppings are very small and harmless, consisting of dried insect remains.  In extreme cases, a church may be colonised by large number of bats, although this has not been reported in Staffordshire.

This may become an issue for a number of reasons:

  • Misunderstanding and fear
  • Damage to ancient and sacred relics and fixtures
  • Associated cleaning issues
  • Genuine concern for the sanctity of the church.
  • Concern over repairs or building works.

It is important to remember that all these problems can be addressed!

5) How can I help the Project?

Its simple to help the Bats in Churches Project.  If you know of a church bat roost in Staffordshire you should contact our Project Officer using the details on the contacts page.  These records can then help us and BCT build a better picture about bat populations and distribution.

 


 

Bats in Churches - Quote from Church of England website

“Without question, this is a case where the interests of nature conservation, building conservation, and the use of a building for worship could cause considerable tensions without goodwill on all sides.  It should be remembered that the safequarding of the natural world is also a Christian duty.  Churches affected should strive to find a reasonable compromise, advised by the Diocesan Advisory Committee as well as English Heritage and Natural England.”

For many churches, the presence of the bats is a bonus!  One story tells of a vicar who was commemorating the RAF at the Battle of Britain when a Pipistrelle bat flew past, much to the enjoyment of the congregation!  Some churches are very proud of their bats and hold bat walks and talks, and conduct surveys which are of regional and national importance. 





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