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Bat Facts (Posted On: Tuesday, August 07, 2012)

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In many parts of the world bats suffer from a bad reputation.  Regarded as carriers of rabies, bats are considered blood-eaters and beasts that tangle themselves in people’s hair.

The fact is that bats worldwide provide us with numerous benefits; they are an important part of our ecosystem and an indicator of a healthy environment.

When speaking with Christy MacDonald, a fish and wildlife specialist, she suggested that “bats are often feared and misunderstood despite the fact that these creatures are an invaluable and beneficial part of our natural environment.  They have fascinating abilities making them one of the most interesting species in Ontario.”

Bats look like a flying mouse and a common name for them was once flitter mouse.  Hanging upside-down by their hooked hind leg with their wings folded around them like a cloak, they’re the only mammals on Earth capable of sustaining self-propelled flight. 

In Ontario, there are eight different species of bats- Big Brown, Little Brown, Eastern Pipistrelle, Silver-haired, Hoary, Red, Small-footed, and the Northern Long-eared.  The most common of these is the little brown bat which is the only bat in Ontario that prefers to eat mosquitos.  This bat also eats moths, plant bugs, and flies which makes your gardening experience more enjoyable.  These are just a few insects that the little brown bat eats. 

The more solitary bats such as the Silver-haired, Hoary, Red and the Northern Long-eared tend to live in trees or brush in the summer and eat a variety of insects including moths, beetles, flies and termites.  Some of these bats, like the Silver-haired or Red and Hoary, will migrate long distances for the winter months, some as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.  The others tend to hibernate in locations where the temperature is relatively stable, usually caves.

In the farming industry, bats are known as the “farmers’ hired hand” because of the quantity of insects they consume.  In an hour, a bat can consume 600 to 1000 mosquitoes or half of their body weight in insects!  Remember, birds are off duty at night, and bats are an important form of natural control for insects such as mosquitoes, and it’s in our own interest to perpetuate them. 

There are a number of ways to mitigate mosquitoes: you could cover yourself in a repellant that is full of harmful ingredients, try a natural product or put up a bat house and eliminate several thousand an hour.  When installing your new bat house make sure you hang it at least 20 feet from the ground and where it’s fairly clear of obstacles so the bats can find their home easily. 

Each year bats are forced to live closer with humans and compete for food, shelter and space.  Their habitats are quickly being destroyed due to population growth and development.  To help control the insect population and provide a habitat for the bats – instead of your attic, build a bat house or purchase one at your local hardware store, A&D birdseed in Stayner or the Environment Network Shoppe in Collingwood.  
 
If bats move into your attic, draw them out by finding the entry/exit sites and install one way doors over the holes so that when they leave, they cannot return.  The best time to exclude bats is in the fall when they are looking for other roosting sites for hibernating.  During May to August bats may have their young; consequently, this is not a good time for exclusion.  Every species has a purpose!  Share your backyard with these fascinating night patrollers and enjoy a summer with fewer mosquitos.

Melanie Vollick is the owner and founder of Write Way Communications (Professional & Reliable Writing Services).  She is an active advocate of sustainable living and has a B.A. with Honours in Environmental & Resource Studies from Trent University.   

e-mail: melanie@writewaycommunications.ca
 

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