The bats in our belfry

Bats are mysterious to us, and eerie because our greatest reference is how we see them

southwest U.S. spotted bats

these spotted bats are indigenous to the southwest U.S.

in horror films. If, eek!  bats find way to our attic, we want them gone, at whatever expense to them. The less spooked among us refer to them as “rats with wings.”
     When in reality, bats are fellow biding mammals. They’re an intelligent and communal species.
     We need them. That seems to be a prevailing secret.

The bats …
     Most bats in the United States and Canada are nocturnal. That adds to their mystery, as noted creatures of the night, and makes them appealing for vampire stories. Yet vampire bats are the least among the species.
Vampire bats: There are 1,100 bat species in the world, and only three of those are vampire species. They’re in Central and South America.
     Vampire bats need blood for nourishment. Two of the vampire bat species prey upon fowl. One preys upon large mammals, like donkeys or cattle — and only strays from that if their habitat is threatened, and they’re desparate for food.
Bats in the U.S.: No vampire bats inhabit the United States. There are 46 bat species in North America. Most of them are insectivorous, meaning they eat insects.
     The larger bats in the United States weigh about an ounce and a quarter, says Susan Kwasniak, Marketing Director at Bat Conservation.org. “They weigh almost nothing.”
     Yet a single brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in one hour, she says.
     Bats not only kill mosquitos, but also crop pests like brown moths and corn ear moths. Corn ear moths alone, lay larva that could kill a crop.
There are a few bat species, mostly in Florida, that polinate plants.
     All bats species form colonies, and communicate with one another. Mother bats will adopt orphan pups.

… in our belfry
    Bats may find way to our belfries or attics, because ’tis their instinct to find shelter.
     “They’re picky about their choice of shelter, and seek certain conditions,” says Ms. Kwasniak. A quiet space in your home may suit their needs, especially nowadays when their natural habitat is being depleted.

long-nosed bat pollinating a cactus

     Discovering bats in our homes initially shocks us. They hang upside down, just like in the movies. Their little bodies are made to recline like that, says Ms. Kwasniak, and to drop down when they fly away.
     Some folks are less spooked and simply consider bats as pests to be exterminated.
     Bats are not vermin. They are integral to our eco-system.

Friendly ways to remove bats from homes: There are ways to get bats out of our homes without killing them. These are called “exclusion methods.”
     They include figuring out where the bats are getting in and out, and closing that access after the bats have left, so they cannot return.

More information:  Bat Conservation International is dedicated to educating people on bats and their importance to the eco-system. For more information, visit here.

What to do if there’s “A bat in my house”  visit here.

 *published in Romantic’s autumn 2010. photos courtesy of Bat Conservation International

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