Bats in the Belfry
June 7, 2016 -
The Landscaping and Grounds Committee was approached about ways Carol Woods could increase the number of bats on the campus. The committee decided a first step would be an educational article on how bats serve a beneficial role in controlling mosquitoes and other pesky insects.
Hence, the title of this article – Bats in the Belfry! Maybe, but they are more likely to be found in trees, caves, under bridges or in the eaves of your home. Bats are amazing creatures that live on all continents except Antarctica, and constitute one-fifth of all mammalian species worldwide. Seventeen species are found in N.C. alone, of which seven are listed as endangered or threatened. Populations are declining due to pesticides, disease, habitat destruction and human disturbance of their roosts and colonies. With declining bat populations, agricultural businesses in NC realize economic losses from a decrease in bat pollination of plants and their consumption of insect pests during the growing season.
Bats mate in spring, producing one pup a year. They usually return to the same site every year, forming maternity colonies in summer to feed their young. One way of encouraging the growth of a colony is to install bat boxes so the young are protected. Besides, one nursing female can eat her weight in insects in a single night. Imagine how many mosquitoes an entire colony can consume!
Bats are agile flyers, using echolocation to navigate, locate prey and avoid objects as small as a string in total darkness. The largest species in North Carolina is the hoary bat with a wingspan of up to 16 inches and a body length of 6 inches. The smallest is the Eastern pipistrelle which weighs l/5 ounce. Although its body is the size of your thumbnail, its wingspan is four to five inches. In our area, the most common bats are the Eastern red bat, the big brown bat and the little brown bat.
• Bats will get in your hair. Bats may give this impression because they typically drop ten feet when they leave the roost to gain lift for their flight.
• Bat boxes interfere with attracting birds. No, there is no competition for food or space.
• What about rabies? Like all mammals, bats can contract rabies, but the incidence is very low compared to dogs or other animals. Avoid them as you would any sick animal.
• Bats bite to drink your blood. Not in North America. Vampire bats are only found in Latin America.
I would encourage you to educate yourself about the importance of conserving bats and learn how they are beneficial to our environment. Visit the website www.batcon.org or look in the Carol Woods library for the notebook on BATS in the reference section.
–Written by Carol Woods resident Barbara G.