Letter to the Editor: Bats Enjoy Summer Too
With summer in full swing, mosquitoes are on the prowl and in full force. Fortunately for those of us that love spending time outside, bats are also returning for the summer from their winter roosts.
As you may know, bats are a top predator of the mosquito. In one hour, one bat eats 600 - 1,000 mosquito-sized insects. Therefore, 50 bats are capable of eating a minimum of 180,000 bugs in six hours with no ill effects on livestock, household pets or children. No pesticide on the market can match that claim.
Bat cuisine consists of mosquitoes, flies, June bugs, ants, termites, moths, scrub beetles, crickets and spotted cucumber beetles (the adult stage of corn rootworm), to name only a few. Some species even consider grasshoppers fine dining.
Now for those of you that cringe at the mere thought of bats being in the area, let me dispel some ridiculous rumors and share some interesting facts.
a.Bats do not intentionally fly into your hair. Bats are shy and avoid people whenever possible. However, if you have ever been to an evening football game, you can attest to the fact that mosquitoes and gnats hover close to people - thus a low-flying bat is most-likely catching his dinner and probably saving someone from an itchy bite (and possibly West Nile virus).
b.North American bats have no desire to suck blood - they are all insectivores. Of the 1,108 species currently identified, only three rely on blood as a food source and those three species reside in Central and South America. Two of the three rely on bird blood and the one species that does rely on mammal blood, does not find human blood palatable (human blood is a last resort for a starving bat).
c. Bats are not blind. Most bats have good eyesight; however, due to the nature of their flight time, they rely on echolocation for navigation.
d.Bats are meticulous; they clean themselves more thoroughly than cats.
e.Fruit bats are responsible for 80-85 percent of reforestation of the world's rain forests through seed dispersion.
f.Tequila traditionally comes from a cactus pollinated by bats.
g.The bat colony at Bracken Cave in San Antonio eats several tons of insects each evening.
h. A majority of the 1,108 species are endangered due to destruction of roosting sites.
The final point is what brings me to share this information, I would challenge anyone interested in gardening, species conservation or outdoor sporting events to put up a bat house to attract the mosquito eradicator. You can purchase a bat house through Bat Conservation International's website, in person at Wild Birds Unlimited (there is one near the Parks Mall in Arlington) and other nature centers, or by building a bat house of your own. Specifics on what color to paint, how high to hang and which direction to face the house can be obtained from these sources as well. [Hmm, building bat houses for local attractions (near football stadiums, lakes, etc.) might be a great project for local Boy Scouts?]
Most people fear bats because of their rumored "link to rabies." Statistics show that less than one-half of one percent of bats contract rabies. Additionally, bats are not a carrier for the disease, but die from it just like any other animal.
Never handle a bat. As I stated earlier, healthy bats are shy creatures and normally avoid humans. Therefore, if you come upon a bat lying on the ground or roosting unusually low on a building or tree, do not touch it. Instead, call a rehabilitator and have the bat rescued. Although the bat may simply be suffering from dehydration or disorientation due to being blown off course, bats are wild animals and should not be handled Ã¯Â¿Â½ they may bite if they feel threatened. You can locate a rehabilitator through www.batworld.org or www.batcon.org.
If you would like more information, check out these two bat conservation organizations. Bat World, website www.batworld.org or Bat Conservation International, website www.batcon.org. Happy bat watching,