Master gardener Rodney Dowty shows the bat house he built for Belle Grove Plantation.

MIDDLETOWN — Belle Grove Plantation is home to history and various little critters, including bats.

Kristen Laise, the executive director of Belle Grove Plantation, said that bats started to take refuge in the chimneys of the Belle Grove manor house after the bat houses located in the nearby barn were taken down when it was renovated to become the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center, which opened in April.

“Even with the construction going on, we had noticed that bats chose a few of the Belle Grove manor house chimneys as a hangout, and that’s not good,” Laise said.

Belle Grove reached out to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners Association to come up with a new place for the bats to live. Master Gardener Rodney Dowty stepped in with a solution: a bat house.

“With the master gardeners, I had been doing occasional wood projects for them,” Dowty said. “I always had an idea to build a bat house for myself, and this was an opportunity to try it.”

Dowty constructed a bat house for the plantation’s bat population.

“I learned a little but about bats and what they need,” he said. “I found the design on a website that was a multi-chamber bat house.”

The bat house includes a landing pad at the bottom and grooved edges so the bats can climb up and down the house.

“They can move through the chambers,” Dowty said. “There are holes and openings designed for that.”

Dowty said that it took him a little over eight hours to construct the house. He said that some of the time was stretched out because he had never done a project like this before.

“I was learning as I was going on,” Dowty said. “It stretched out over a longer period of time because I used spar varnish on the outside, and that takes a long time to dry in between coats. There were at least two coats of spar varnish on the exterior.”

Laise said that they kept the bats around because they benefit the environment.

“They help keep the mosquito population down so we really want them to have a good habitat, just not in our buildings as bats can carry disease,” she said.

Laise said that the bat house will be moved to the barn located at the bend in Belle Grove Road. She said she would like to install more like them.

– Contact Donald Lambert at