Bats are good for eliminating mosquitos, but often misunderstood
One morning a neighbor called. “Hey, come over to my place. You’re the outdoor guy. I want show you something, and then I’ve got a couple of questions.”
That type call always worries me. I’ve been writing about the outdoors for half a century, but still know very little about it. There is so much to know. Usually what I do know, is who to ask for their expertise.
When I arrived my friend was still eating breakfast. “Come out here on the porch. Look up there.”
“Bats,” I said. There were three hanging between a couple of rafters. They were small and brown, but I had no idea what species they were. At least for me, it is nearly impossible to tell one from the other.
“What will happen to them this winter?”, he asked. “I thought they stayed in caves at night.” It was obvious to me that some research was in order.
While I enjoy watching bats swoop and dart at dusk, my knowledge of the animal is nil. I know they eat a lot of insects, including pesky mosquitos, and that’s important these days with all the concern for Zika virus.
Zika apparently is spread by mosquitos, and the government plans to spend more than one billion dollars to combat the disease.
According to non-game biologist Brooke Slack, there are 15 known species of bats in Kentucky.
Most hibernate in caves during winter months, but migrate in warmer weather and will travel several hundred miles to a summer home.
Bats breed in the fall, however the females do not become pregnant until spring, according to Brooke. There is a technical term for it, but essentially, the sperm lies dormant until after hibernation.
According to an Indiana Department of Natural Resources website, “Bats are probably the most mistreated and misunderstood mammals. People believe that bats are carriers of rabies or that they have a desire to fly into women’s hair. Neither of these rumors is true, as well as the vampire stories that surround these harmless creatures.
“Bats are clean animals and are no more apt to carry rabies than a dog or a cat. Contrary to popular belief, bats are gentle creatures that benefit man by consuming large quantities of pesky insects.
“In spring, bats emerge from hibernation and migrate to their summer homes. Because they separate into smaller social units, little is known about summer habitat requirements. Females form maternity colonies of up to 100 bats during the summer.
“Bats feed entirely on night flying insects, and a colony of bats can consume thousands of insects each night. A gray bat (an endangered species) will eat up to 3,000 insects per feeding. Bats locate these insects by emitting high-pitched sounds and waiting for the echo, which allows them to zoom in on the bug's location.
“The fat reserves accumulated by devouring these large quantities of insects during the summer and fall allow the bat to sustain itself during hibernation.
As we sat on my friend’s porch, he explained the bats in his rafters spend their day hanging upside down from the rafters and disappear at dark. “They don’t bother anything,” so they can stay,”