They may seem scary, with their leathery wings, sharp teeth and preference for the darkest hours of the night.

They may seem scary, with their leathery wings, sharp teeth and preference for the darkest hours of the night.

But a healthy bat population has big benefits for humans.

The average bat gobbles up annoying insects, including mosquitoes, at an amazing rate -- between 500 and 1,000 bugs per hour.

That knowledge propelled a Powell student to complete a novel project to boost the local bat population and earn Eagle Scout status in the process.

Michael Heil, a 15-year-old freshman at Olentangy Liberty High School, built 30 wooden bat boxes that will be placed all around Powell this summer.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable by Boy Scouts. To earn the designation, scouts must earn 21 merit badges and finish a community-service project.

Heil's small, rectangular bat boxes are cramped inside, with just a tiny opening at the base. It's the ideal space for a bat to sleep the day away, he said.

"It replicates their natural habitat," he said. "On a tree, they like to crawl into the space between the bark and the tree."

Inside each box is a foothold the bats can cling to -- perfect for hanging upside down.

The boxes are made from sturdy, water-resistant cedar planks, so they'll last a long time, Heil said.

In all, the new Eagle Scout and about a dozen other helper scouts spent more than 133 hours designing and constructing the boxes.

This summer, Powell workers will hang them around the city in the places where bats are likely to congregate -- particularly near ponds, creeks and other standing water, which serve as breeding grounds for insects.

"People don't like the bugs as much as the bats do," said Silas Bowers, assistant director for the city's parks and recreation department. "We'll try to scout around as much as we can to find good spots for them, and do our best to attract the bats."

There currently are no bat boxes in Powell.

Heil's Eagle Scout project is complete, but his scouting days are far from over. He remains a member of Boy Scout Troop 428, which meets in Powell.

In all, he's been a scout for eight years. He plans to attend Camp Lazarus this summer to help train new Boy Scouts.

"I really enjoy scouting. It has a lot of opportunities to learn and do new things," he said. "And I like to go camping and be in the wilderness."

Next year, he hopes to become senior patrol leader for his troop -- the highest youth position in scouting -- and aims to become a full-fledged scoutmaster one day.