The Weston Historical society, an organization devoted to the conservation of Weston’s cultural and agricultural history, has recently launched an initiative to support sustainable, natural gardening at its Coley Homestead on Weston Road.
The project involves the creation of a working garden utilizing agricultural methods from the 18th and 19th Centuries.
In an effort to recreate a true historical farm site, however, the society reached an impasse. How could insects and rodents that eat through vegetables and nest in the barns, be controlled without using modern pesticides?
The society wanted to avoid contemporary methods (poisons) in order to achieve historical accuracy and to reduce risks to the environment and neighboring wildlife.
So this fall, the society enlisted the help of wild birds and bats to solve the problem by installing owl and bat houses on the Coley property. These structures, though man made, provide a green, effective and natural form of pest control for the farmstead’s garden, using methods that reflect the historical time period.
The owl houses provide a home for a family of owls and proximity to enough prey to sustain themselves. A family of barn owls, which primarily prey upon mice, voles and chipmunks, can consume 2,000 to 3,000 rodents per year.
The boxes are also used as nesting spaces for pairs of owls to raise their young, which typically number between five and eight per year.
The bat boxes provide a home for bats, which, contrary to the social stigma, are docile, useful creatures (even though many find them repellent). The little brown bat, which consumes mostly insects such as mayflies, moths, mosquitos and wasps, can eat its weight in bugs (1,000 to 2,000 insects) each night. The box is subdivided into multiple “shelves” to maximize surface space for perching. A box can house bachelor colonies (smaller, all male groups) or nursing colonies (mother and baby bats).
As a member of Weston Boy Scout Troop 788, I decided to base my Eagle Scout project around addressing the historical society’s challenge by leading the construction of nine bat and two owl houses. One of each of these houses has been installed at the Coley Homestead.
The remainder are available for sale to benefit the Weston Historical Society. For more information, contact Carol Baldwin at 203-226-1804.