In my native Austin, Texas, there is one of the largest colonies of Mexican Free-Tail Bats; they emerge nightly in the late summer in swaths of pulsating clouds. If you blink too long, you may miss the suckers- pun intended. They are amazing creatures, and should be protected, but so many people fear them. Why is it that people imagine them getting caught in their hair and being flung at their faces? In this guest piece, The Green Gobbler, Northern Virginia’s resident green building expert, gives us a dose of what it means to have bats in your attic, in your garden and possibly on your same wave length! Are you ready to go batty this Halloween??? Thanks to the Green Gobbler for another fun post!
Would you rather spray chemicals all over yourself and your lawn or have a box that houses some bats? Let’s ask Nosferatu…
We have all seen Nosferatu, right? A super-creepy, bulbous vampire-dude, pale as all get-out who sort of slithers from here to there. You know the one.. he is surrounded by flitting winged mammals??? Bats. Bats are gross, blood sucking creatures who shift in the night to haunt our every move and steal our women. Yeah? Did I nail it?
Kill over 1000 biting insects an hour
No. Bats are not entirely creepy. Yes, the are winged mammals, but did you know that these little creatures are part of our incredibly diverse ecosystem that help sustain life and do plentiful good things? These beneficial animals actually can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour; darting here and there and everywhere in the twilight sky, bats use their sonar to bounce off of bugs and consume mass quantities! Thanks little guys. Wouldn’t you rather have something else eat bugs than spray loads of chemical pesticides into the atmosphere?
The colony approach to living
In Northern Virginia alone, there are seventeen species of bats, two of which have only been documented one time a piece, but still, seventeen species of “little brown bats” or “big brown bats” or even “big eared bats” sounds pretty interesting to me! Another interesting thing about bats is that they are colony animals. They live together, sort of like a “den” or “pack” animal like a wolf. They don’t like to live alone- all upside down…
The bat problem
The gross part about the colony aspect of bat life, if you happen to get a colony of bats in your attic or barn, they can cause quite a problem- because their urine and feces can contain some properties that can be quite caustic and damaging to property. Did you know that bat guano used to be a major component of gun powder? On the more awesome and sustainable side of things, the nitrates in bat guano are awesome in the garden. Some of the better garden soils have high bat guano percentages. Speaking of the bat guano- never, ever touch it with your bare hands. Bats and their feces have been known to carry the fungus histoplasmosis which can cause health problems such as lung infections and more. On that note from histoplasmosis, please understand that this fungus grows where it is humid and warm on bird droppings, too- so by that rationale, bird droppings cause just as much damage. The thing to learn here- don’t huff on random animal feces dust. Got it? Bats have also been known vectors of rabies- just as gophers, squirrels or even the occasional angry river beaver; so, remember to never, ever touch a fallen bat or engage an injured animal- no matter how helpless it looks or even if it is dead, and if you are ever bitten, immediately seek medical treatment.
If you keep your safe distance from bats, you can have your very own natural pest control system. You can even build a little bat house, to keep them at that safe distance from you. Here is a link on how to build your very own bat house. Just be keenly aware that bats are natures little bug-zappers that aren’t really supposed to tangle with humans. Nosferatu would probably agree.