Bats: Nature's Mosquito Destroyer
Worldwide, there are some 1,000 species of bats. Don't worry: vampire bats don't hang around these parts. North America is home to around 40 different species and they are predominantly insect-eating, although bats in other geographic regions also feed on fruit, plants, and other animals.
Bats are the only mammal that fly. They are tiny and very lightweight, measuring only 3 to 5 inches in length, and they only weigh up to an ounce. Nocturnal creatures, they usually are most active at dusk and they fly around until dawn.
Bats are thought to be blind, but they see just fine. However, the insect-eating varieties find their food through echolocation, meaning they bounce a high frequency sound off of insects to determine their size and location, and then they go in for the catch. Bats are a necessary and welcomed part of the food chain, keeping insects and other pests under control. The common small brown bat can consume up to 1,200 insects each hour!
Not the most beautiful of animals to look at, with their tiny faces, oversized ears, and huge thin wings, bats do a beautiful job of keeping our environment in harmony. They are good plant pollinators and are revered for their ability to control the insects that can destroy crops, as well as for keeping pesky mosquito populations down. During cold weather some species of bats relocate to warmer climates, but many hibernate until the spring.
Bats roost during daylight in hollow trees, under bridges, in caves, and in man-made structures such as old buildings and bat houses. They tend to cluster in colonies, but they do need shelter and you can lure these natural mosquito controllers to your yard or farmland with houses designed specially for attracting these curious creatures.
Bat houses will draw bats to your property and keep them there. Bats like dark, tight spaces and an area to keep their young warm and protected. If the inside surfaces of the bat house are roughened, they will resemble tree bark and the bats will feel right at home. The textured walls give bats something to grasp as they perch.
Bat houses come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials such as cedar, redwood, and recycled plastic. A bat house kit is also a great project for Scout troops or other young people to build, as it teaches them about the environmental value of bats. More than half of the species in the U.S. are now endangered.
Hang bat houses by late winter, because the bats will come seeking shelter in the spring. They should be 15 to 25 feet off the ground, on the side of a building or chimney, and away from power lines and tree branches. The bat house should face south or southwest and the opening and ventilation vents should be free from obstructions. It can take 6 to 12 months or more to attract bats to bat houses, but be patient. When you hear chatter in the bat house or find bat droppings nearby, you know you have provided a home to a colony of mosquito eaters ready to keep those little biters at bay.