Who doesn’t go batty from time to time? It’s fun to observe the various bats as they emerge from their hidey-holes at dusk. They seem to materialize out of nowhere as they flit to and fro, consuming mosquitoes, moths, and more. Bats are important indicators of the environment, so if you’ve got ’em, consider yourselves lucky. Bats wing their way around, noiselessly sending out sound waves to echolocate their prey.
Once, I was taken by surprise by a bat as it flew out of a large shade umbrella on the deck. Another season I noted bat guano or droppings on a window ledge of my home. After consulting a firm to have them removed from an inside wall of my home, I learned that many bats are protected species by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) since the role they play in consuming 50-100 percent of their weight in insects per night is so important. The CDFW’s website explained that “Population declines have caused 17 of California’s 24 native bat species to receive some level of state or federal protection.” The professionals I contacted told me that since I contacted them early enough, prior to freezing temperatures, they could proceed with the removal. If the weather had been too cold, I would have needed to wait until spring for the removal. The bats were able to emerge from the tiny crevice by way of a special ‘screen’ which, when the bats came out, they could no longer re-enter the house. Since the weather was still warm, they had time to find a new home.
There are about 1,400 species of bats worldwide, and most are insectivorous. Bats are favored by farmers as well as those who work in the timber industry since the bats can suppress abundant insects so well. Some bats species are known for pollinating plants; in fact, they are admired in Mexico, where the bats pollinate agave, for tequila-making. Believe it or not, a number of bats are known to aid in saving stroke victims. It turns out that there is an anti-clotting enzyme in bat saliva that can be synthesized! Bats have aided science in other ways as well. Sonar research is conducted on bats, allowing for advances in vaccine development and more. Bats are mammals and can live up to 30 years or more. These furry, flying critters can reach flight speeds of 60 miles per hour. Another bat fact is that bats groom themselves much as a cat does, and nurse their young- usually one ‘pup’ per year. Bat’s predators include snakes, owls, hawks and raccoons. It is typical for bats to find a cozy place to roost, such as loose tree bark or hollows in trees, but they may find an equally pleasant place under roof shingles, in attics or crevices in buildings in which to raise their pups. Bats are known for their ability to enter a crack or crevice that is less than half an inch in width!
October 24-31 is International Bat Week. The CDFW invites you to become ‘bat heroes’ by enlightening others of the important role bats play, protecting bats and their habitat, install a bat box home for bats on your property, or join a citizen-science bat monitoring program. To learn more about bats, and bat box building, as well as view some interesting bat videos, visit batweek.org.
If you chance upon a bat colony, just let them do their bat-thing as they munch on insects. If you want to encourage bats, place a bat box ten feet above ground in an open area directed to the south-southeast, with 6-7 hours of sunshine. If you receive an unwelcome bat visitor inside your home, just open your doors and windows, next, turn off any inside lights, and turn on the outside lights which will attract insects while drawing the bats to the feast.