The United Nations has declared 2011-12 as the International Year of the Bat, part of a global species awareness initiative.

The United Nations has declared 2011-12 as the International Year of the Bat, part of a global species awareness initiative.

So it is perhaps fitting that a Grandview Heights High School student will be building a bat house this summer for the Wallace Community Gardens.

Gen Ritz approached the city with the bat house project, which she will be completing to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.

The planning commission gave its approval of the project at its July 20 meeting.

The idea for the project stemmed from both her concern for the environment and interest in bats, Ritz said.

The bat exhibit at the zoo always fascinated her as a young girl, she said.

"I just thought bats were kind of mysterious and misunderstood," Ritz said. "Probably the biggest misconception people have about bats is that they all have rabies and that they will attack you."

In fact, bats are beneficial for the environment and for humans, she said.

A brown bat can eat as many as 1,000 mosquitoes per hour, Ritz said.

"Mosquitoes are a problem at Wallace Gardens and we've had instances of mosquitoes being captured there displaying signs of West Nile virus," said Sean Robey, parks and recreation director. "This will be a green, non-pesticide way to help eliminate the mosquito population at the gardens and at McKinley Field."

Bats are also capable of pollinating flowers, he said, and they consume garden pests such as gypsy moths and Japanese beetles.

The bat house Ritz will be building will measure 2 feet tall by 1 1/2 half feet wide. It will be placed on a post and be about 13 feet above ground.

"There will be three chambers for the bats, each about three-fourths of an inch apart," she said. "The one I'm building will be able to hold up to 100 bats."

"It's amazing how many bats can cram into such a small space," Robey said.

The house will be placed in the southwest corner of Wallace Gardens, closer to the railroad tracks and away from the trees, he said.

It will be painted black, both to make it more hospitable for the bats and to make it less visible to nearby businesses and homes, Robey said.

There will be an educational component to the house, with a sign or plaque attached to the post providing information about bats and their benefits to the community, he said.

Bats are already in the Grandview area, living in homes and attics and dead trees, Ritz said.

"They come out at night to feed," she said.

The bat house will provide them with an alternative home, Ritz said.

"They are always investigating new homes" while out foraging at night, she said.

Ritz will be working on building the bat house over the next few weeks and plans to have it completed before the start of the new school year.

Although the city has worked with a number of Boy Scouts completing Eagle Scout projects, the bat house project is the first from a Girl Scout, Robey said.

"This is an idea we hadn't thought of," he said. "We've benefited a lot from our local scouts over the years."