Going Batty

These last couple of weeks, my fiance and I have been taking short twilight strolls around our neighborhood. It’s been a nice way to get outside and stretch our legs once the temperature has started to cool off after a scorcher of a day. It’s also been a great way to see some neighbors who only come out at night. No, they’re not ghosts or ghouls and they don’t work the night shift; they’re bats!

Little brown bat roosting in a cave.  Photo by Jeff Gore.  http://www.cnhp.colostate.edu/teams/zoology/cbwg/batList.asp#littlebrownmyotis
Little brown bat roosting in a cave. Photo by Jeff Gore. http://www.cnhp.colostate.edu/teams/zoology/cbwg/batList.asp#littlebrownmyotis

According to the Colorado Bat Working Group, there are 19 bat species that can be found in our state. That includes those bats that only spend their summers here and hibernate elsewhere in the winter. However, those 19 species are only a drop in the bucket of the total number of bat species worldwide. According to Bat Conservation International, there are more than 1,200 types of bats, meaning that bats make up about 1/5 of all mammalian species.

The bats we saw are probably attracted to our neighborhood because of the number of good roosting spaces near by and how close we live to a stream. Insects love water and most bats (2/3) love insects.

The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), one species common to Colorado, has been recorded eating up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour! That’s much more effective and specifically targeted than a bug zapper, and you don’t have to plug a bat in either!

Other bats, mainly in tropical regions, eat fruit or nectar and are therefore important pollinators or seed dispersers. Without bats, you might find it hard to have a banana split.

Despite these benefits, bats often get a bad rap due to movies and books linking them to vampires and fears that they carry rabies. While bats can carry rabies, relatively recent research suggests only about 1 percent do so, making them no more likely to transmit the disease than other mammals like raccoons.

Bats are in trouble world-wide due to loss of habitat and the spread of the deadly fungal disease White nose syndrome. Spraying for mosquitoes with Permethrin, which many counties in Colorado do to control for West Nile Virus, also directly impacts bats by wiping out their primary food source. Check out this link to learn about some other side effects of Permethrin spraying.  

So how can you help conserve your fuzzy, flying neighbors? Well, you could do what we did and buy a bat house. Bat Conservation International has some great tips on the best types of bat house to buy and the best places to hang one. Several bats in Colorado will readily move into a bat house. Also important is to not spray your lawn with insecticides. There are plenty of other ways to prevent mosquitoes and protect against West Nile. In Boulder County, you can opt out of commercial spraying by calling or emailing one of the phone numbers or addresses on this site.

Happy bat watching!

 

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