- Bats are in need of conservation
- Bats provide all natural insect control.
- Bats do not harm humans.
Do you wish there was a better way to control mosquitoes? Do you enjoy attracting birds and butterflies to your yard? With a minor adjustment you can invite bats – and here’s why you should do so.
The often repeated fears of bats are of sucking blood and transmitting rabies. The fact is even the types of bats who do feed on blood don’t suck it, they lap it. You’re many times more likely to choke on your food, fall victim to a doctor’s mistakes, be hit by a car or struck by lightning than you are to be bitten by a bat. As with any animal if cornered and pestered they will bite to defend themselves. A bat house, hung 15 feet or more up in a tree, can be the answer to your neighborhood bug problem. With all the repellants, sprays, candles and other measures we take to repel bugs we ignore the most obvious ones – bats, purple martins and other birds that feed on them – all creatures who need help to survive.
There are hundreds of types of bats – some with common names like the brown bat or vampire bat with others less commonly heard of, such as the hoary bat. They are highly developed nocturnal insect eating creatures and, contrary to popular commentary, are not blind. They use sonar type echos to hone in on their prey. Between 60-70% of bats eat insects – not only mosquitoes but beetles, flies, crickets, gnats, mayflies, wasps and others. Some bats will eat scorpions, fish, nectar, small mammals and even pollen. Ten species in central America are carnivorous, with a meal specifically small birds, small mammals or other bats. Only three types of vampire bats consume blood, usually with a nip on livestock then licking the blood from the small injury.
Often people see what they think are birds darting through the bug filled air at night – and they may well be bats. A small brown bat colony for example comes out at late dusk – first searching for nearby water where they feed just above the surface. They can be poisoned with pesticides however so need a clean area to live. Red bats can hang in trees, often looking like a dead leaf. Their young are often destroyed by blue jays while adults must survive possums, hawks, owls, cats and people. They are apt to migrate, sometimes flying with birds.
Bats may use old buildings, abandoned mines, caves, rocky bluffs and other means of housing. For someone wanting to bring bats in a bathouse may be used. There are ways to live in harmony with bats. While there is fear of getting rabies from bats one statistic pointed out that world wide over 30,000 humans die from rabies annually – 99% of these were due to contact with rabid dogs. With dogs and cats often vaccinated for rabies, the chances from getting it from bats is very small. The most common bat normally found in bat houses is the big or little brown bat – who have been traced to four cases of rabies in US history. Their primary meals are insects. Some cases are preventable, such as the one who dunked a sick bat in his beer and was bitten. Still, adults and children shouldn’t handle the bats – just like any wild animal. If you should find a bat in the home it’s normally a youngster who simply wants out. Leaving a window or door open may allow him to escape or, alternate plan B can be implemented, using a small box to quietly cover the bat, slip another piece of cardboard to seal him into the box without touching him, and take him outside to release him. Bats may roost in attics, soffits, louvers, chimneys, under siding or eves, behind shutters, between concrete beams, under bridges and – of course – bat houses.
Bats help with pollination in some cases – such as the agave plants where seed production drops to 1/3,000th of normal with out bats. The agave plants are used to produce tequila. Many forest areas also benefit from the bat. More than half the bat species in America are on the decline or listed as endangered. These animals, perhaps not warm and fuzzy, have a vital part of the natural order. For those wanting to get away from chemical sprays bats will eagerly take a free invitation to the insect buffet over your fields. It’s quite probable that you would benefit and seldom see them.
Did you know…one little brown bat can catch hundreds of mosquito-sized insects an hour, and a typical colony of big brown bats can protect local farmers from the costly attacks of 18 million root-worms each summer. A bat colony is an obvious low cost solution.