Bats

BATS SHOULDN’T BE PESTS!

Over the last few decades, much has been learned about bats and how they help to
keep our environment healthy. Many species of bats, such as those known as
flying foxes, are also surprisingly appealing and intelligent. Ironically,
though, bats continue to be among the most misunderstood and feared of all our
wildlife. This fear and ignorance have contributed to the almost total
destruction of sever bat species and threatened the existence of many others.
Such loses can seriously harm ecosystems and reduce the quality of life for more
living things. Including humans. But with our help, bats can continue to
function as one of nature’s most beneficial creatures.

Bats are mammals, and like all other mammals, the females possess mammary glands
where milk is produced and fed to the young. Baby bats, called pups, are born
alive and have to be taken care of for an extended period of time. The body of a
bat is covered by hair, as is true of other mammals.

Bats fly, which does make them different from most mammals. Bats belong to the
Chiropterea, which means “hand-wing”. Species in this order are divided into two
suborders. Megchiroptera, which includes the various species of flying foxes,
and Microchiroptera. Flying foxes use echolocation, a kind of natural sonar for
locating prey and other objects. Megachiropteran bats are found only in Europe,
Asia, etc. Microchiropteran bats do echolocate and are a much more diverse and
widely distributed group.

Bats are indeed beneficial to people. In many cultures, bats are a symbol of
good luck and fortune. In our own western culture, this for the most part is not
so. Many view bats as unclean, disease carrying, symbols of evil. In reality,
bats are actually very gentle, and will only bite if attacked or threatened or
improperly handled. They are no more likely to carry disease then a bird.
Rabies, as with any other wild animal is a valid concern. Use caution if you
must handle them, wearing gloves, and even better, have a rabies vaccination
prior to handling. Fortunately, there is no reason to handle them.

As predators of nocturnal insects, pollinators of flowers, and distributors of
seeds of many plants, bats are a crucial to echosystems. Consuming volumes of
insects, they are worth their weight in gold, in many areas where humans are
finally learning of the benefits. Fortunately for the bat, many humans are
learning just how valuable they can be!

Sometimes there may be a problem with bats getting in where they are not wanted.
A safe solution to keeping bats out of your attic or garage, is to see where
bats leave the building at dusk to feed. Then identify the specific holes or
cracks during the day by looking for brownish stains at the exit sites. These
sites will frequently be found where a wall meets a roof or a chimney, behind a
loose board or in holes made by other animals. Wait until the young can fly or
the bats migrate, then hang bird netting over the exit points, allowing it to
hang at least 2 feet below the nesting site exit. Wait three more days after the
netting has been in place, and close over the holes with screening, caulking or
boards. Please refrain from using chemical or ultrasonic device techniques or
repellents.

There are now organizations to assist in protecting bats, and in fact, more and
more people are becoming concerned with the conservation of bats, through
private as well as governmental organizations. The increased awareness is most
certainly die to the efforts of the Bat Conservation International, and numerous
other organizations that emphasize education, which is ultimately the key to
conserving our bat friends.

You can invite bats to your own backyard and become active in bat conservation
by using an artificial roost to attract bats. Bat houses are enjoyed by a
variety of bat species that also use natural crevices and tree hollows. Even if
the house is not used by bats, its presence causes visitors to ask about the
house which provides the owner an excellent opportunity to educate friends about
bats.

Bat houses are inexpensive and easy to build. You can buy these at garden
centers, order them from conservation groups, or build your own.