Weary of biting bugs, Mukilteo Girl Scouts build houses to bring in bats

When Girl Scout Troop 41137 found an environmental problem in Mukilteo, the Mukilteo Library played a role in its solution.

Girl Scout Troop 41137 leader Margaret Ostervold and scouts Annelise Buck, Maija Hammond, Genevieve Buck and Chloe Parrish show four of the 36 bat houses the troop built. Three bat houses hang outside the Mukilteo Library (photo gallery).

The 11-member troop meets near the Sno-Isle Libraries community library in Mukilteo and often hikes the Big Gulch trail system that starts at the library, troop leader Margaret Ostervold said. As Junior Girl Scouts, girls are eligible for the Bronze Award by earning a series of badges on a “journey” that culminates in a Take Action Project.

“The girls realized that they always run into mosquitos and ‘noseeums’ that bite on the trails in the summertime,” Ostervold said. “They thought encouraging more bats to reside in the area may help with the issue.”

After scouts complete the journey, they develop ideas to help their community in sustainable ways, Ostervold said. They need to identify a problem and spend at least 20 hours working on solving that problem.

Mosquitos? “Noseeums?” Now there’s a problem bug-loving bats could solve.

The troop members invited local bat enthusiast and rehabilitator Meg Lunnum from Happy Valley Bats in Silvana to talk about bats. Lunnum told them about the 12 species of bats in the Puget Sound region and the 1,300 species worldwide.

“She met the troop behind the Mukilteo Library and told them all about our local bats and even brought one that she was rehabilitating for them to see,” Ostervold said. “They really enjoyed the live bat.”

The live bat was Carol Ann, a silver-haired bat, Lunnum said. She explained how bats benefit the environment by eating pesky insects such as mosquitos.

Photo of GS Troop 41137
With help from parents, Girl Scout Troop 41137 built 36 bat houses that will be hung around Mukilteo, including the Mukilteo Library.

“The girls were very attentive and interested, especially when I brought out Carol Ann,” Lunnum said.

She gave the troop building plans for bat houses and showed good places to put them. Then, the girls asked for building supplies from Ace Hardware, Midway Plywood and Dunn Lumber. They got enough material to build 36 bat houses.

Ostervold asked the Mukilteo Library for permission to hang bat houses in tall trees behind the library. Library Manager Jane Crawford happily obliged. Ostervold and scouts Annelise Buck, Maija Hammond, Genevieve Buck and Chloe Parrish watched as the bat houses went up Sept. 28.

The Mukilteo Library has had a native habitat garden on the grounds since 2012, thanks to the efforts of the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Group.

“The bat houses nicely tie into the wildlife space outside the library. The bat houses are an extension of how Sno-Isle Libraries maintains the environment and practices sustainability and good stewardship at each of our libraries,” Crawford said. “We work with young leaders, like those in our local scout groups, in order to make everyone feel welcome and part of their community when they visit their library and walk through nearby outdoor spaces.”

“It was quite a process, as we had some girls who had never used a hammer, but everyone is quite adept now,” Ostervold said.

The troop plans to hang the rest of its bat houses around the city of Mukilteo and surrounding area.