Benefits of Bats
Many people have serious misconceptions about bats. Myths that they are vicious carriers of rabies and pests are abundant. The fact is that bats are actually quite harmless and are important indicators of a healthy environment. Because bats are sensitive to high pollution and pesticide levels, they are useful as a warning sign to potential environmental problems. Bats can also be important weapons in combating insects that are actually dangerous to humans.
With the increased media coverage of deaths caused by the West Nile Virus, many people are looking for effective ways to prevent the spread of the disease. As most of us are aware, the West Nile Virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes. Mosquitoes make up a significant portion of a bat's diet. A small bat can capture more than 1,200 mosquitoes in a single hour! Bats cannot contract the West Nile Virus by eating infected mosquitoes. Besides mosquitoes, bats can help control the populations of beetles, moths, and leafhoppers. Many insects can hear bats up to 100 feet away and will avoid those areas occupied by bats. The effectiveness of bats in some areas diminishes the need for pesticides that can harm both the pests and their natural predators.
One of the most effective and environmentally friendly ways to reduce the mosquito population near your home is to install a bat house. Bat house sizes range from holding a dozen or so bats to having enough space for a colony of 500 bats. Most North American bats prefer to live in large groups, called colonies, so a mid-sized house (100-300 bats) is typically recommended. A bat house may be mounted on a tree, pole, or building; however, houses mounted on poles or buildings tend to have a slightly higher occupancy than those mounted on trees. For mounting on buildings, wood or stone buildings are best, and your bat house should be mounted under the eaves with some sun exposure. You should mount your house 15-20 feet above the ground where it will not be exposed to bright lights. Temperature is also a consideration. You should place your bat house where it will receive at least six hours of sun if you live in a region where average July temperatures range from 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a region where average July temperature are less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you should mount your bat house where it will receive at least 10 hours of sun.
If you are interested in learning more about bats, you may wish to consider purchasing one of the following books: