It’s true; bats are just one of those creatures who have a face only a mother could love! That’s probably why so many myths about bats. In reality, bats are gentle, shy creatures who avoid contact with humans if at all possible. There are over a thousand different species of bats making them one of the most numerous species of mammals. Bats give birth to undeveloped young and nurse their pups for six weeks after birth. Contrary to popular belief bats are not blind and in fact have vision equal to humans at night. Echolocation, a form of sonar bats use to navigate in the dark also helps them locate insects a major part of many bats diet.
One insect eating bat can eat up to a 1000 mosquitoes an hour. On an average night each bat consumes approximately 3000 mosquitoes! Some towns have actually set up habitats for bats to combat their mosquito problem. Organic farmers who don’t use pesticides are using bat habitats in their field to control insects in their crops. In addition to mosquitoes, bats eat cockroaches, ants and other insects. Bats also eats fruit and nectar and are responsible for the pollination and seeding of many species of plants. While on occasion bats will infest an attic and need removal, on the whole they are very beneficial creatures and a valuable part of the ecosystem.
Unfortunately bats are becoming increasingly endangered because of decreased habitats and roosting spaces. Several bat species are on the endangered species list and bat population numbers are decreasing. Attracting bats to your backyard and garden can serve the double purpose of decreasing insects and increasing bat populations.
It is important if you have children to instruct them never to try to pick up a grounded bat. If a bat is on the ground it is probably hurt or sick and may bite. Bats can be infected with rabies and other diseases as can any wild animal and should not be handled without proper training and protection. However, in the last fifty years only fourteen people have been infected with rabies from the type of bats attracted to bat houses.
To attract bats to your yard and garden, provide them with habitats. A bat house can be built or purchased which will encourage bats to roost on your property. You can find plans to build your own bat house at http://www.batconservation.org/content/Bathouseimportance.html . Weather you build your own bat house or buy one already made you’ll need to observe a few rules about the placement of your bat house. Bat houses should face south to take full advantage of the sun. Roosting mothers prefer temperatures from 85 to 90 degrees. Place your bat house fifteen to twenty-five feet off the ground preferably attached to the south side of your house or a free standing pole. Bat houses don’t do as well attracting occupants under shade trees because of the need for heat. However, I placed mine under a shade tree and have an active colony living in it. Expect it to take six months to two years for bats to find your new bat house. Bat houses close to a stream, pond or some water source are more popular. Once your bat house is occupied you can expect the bats to return year after year to roost bringing with them all the benefits of their huge ability to consume those pesky insects!!