Bats have long been
maligned by humans -- a taboo, a creature to be shunned. These little furry
animals that fly seemed to be half-bird, half-mammal, and looked ugly.
But today they are being
given their proper recognition as valuable to mankind in the ecological system.
Many plants, such as bananas and the endangered saguaro cactus, are dependent
upon bats for pollination because they bloom at night. Bats are also
responsible for 95% of the reforestation of the tropical rain forests through
their dispersal of seeds.
Their immediate appeal to
most people is their enormous capacity for consuming insects. A nocturnal
animal, the bat eats when the insects are out, in contrast to birds, which eat
during the day. Some bat species consume half their weight in a night -- as many
as 600 or more gnat-sized insects an hour!
A single little brown bat
(Myotis lucifugas) or big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), some of
the most abundant and widespread bats in North America, can eat 3,000 to 7,000
mosquitoes each night, and a bat can live to be 20 years old. That's a pretty
effective insecticide, especially when you consider that it doesn't poison other
creatures or make holes in the ozone layer!
Bats are misunderstood
creatures that are generally quite harmless to people. They do not become
tangled in your hair, nor do they attack humans. Contrary to misconceptions,
disease transmission from bats to people is easily avoided. Never handle bats
and the odds of being harmed will be extremely remote.
"In more than four decades,
public health records indicate that only 16 people in the United States and
Canada have died of bat-borne diseases... Placed in perspective, this means that
the odds of anyone dying of a disease from a bat are much less than one in a
million. In contrast, in the United States alone more than 10 people die
annually from dog attacks, not to mention dog- and cat-transmitted diseases." -
Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle, "America's Neighborhood Bats," University of Texas Press,
Austin, 1988. In contrast, several children in a million are likely to die each
year from encephalitis contracted through a mosquito bite.
In the Orient these gentle
animals are symbols of good luck, long life and happiness. They are meticulous
in their grooming, spending a fair part of the day and night combing and
grooming their fur.
When bats fly, they
navigate by means of an sophisticated echolocation system. The bat sends out
signals of sound energy, which are reflected back, giving it the location of an
object as well as its texture and other characteristics. They can avoid a
single human hair with extreme accuracy, even in total darkness, giving lie to
the myth that bats are blind.
Bats are feeling the
housing crunch as much as people, with their favorite old hollow trees, barns,
and old houses disappearing. For this reason many bats are choosing bat houses
as permanent roosting sites.
In order for bat houses to
be successful they need to meet specific criteria, such as, narrow crevices at
the bottom for bats to enter and screened or rough surfaces inside for them to
hold onto. A bat house should be hung at least 10 to 15 feet above the ground,
sheltered from the wind, and unobstructed by obstacles to flying, such as power
lines and tree branches. Bat houses located near a source of water, especially a
marsh, lake or stream, are most likely to attract bats, as this habitat attracts
insects and provides a plentiful food supply for the bats. To keep the interior
very warm, place the house on the side of a building or tree which receives
several hours of morning or afternoon sun (100-110 degrees F is required by
nursery colonies). If you are located in a cooler climate you may want to add
tar paper or dark colored shingles to the bat house roof to help warm the house.
If you are located in a warmer climate the bat house can be painted a beige or
tan color using latex pain, or mounted as is. The pine wood will weather nicely
to an attractive silver gray color which blends well with outdoor
During winter months bats
living in Canada and the northern two-thirds of the US migrate south or to
nearby caves for a period of hibernation, as most bat species cannot survive
Bats are in need of
protection if they are to survive. They have proven themselves as valuable
members of our ecosystem, and we must increase the awareness of people who have
the ability to protect or to destroy these little creatures.
Bats are declining,
world-wide, at an alarming rate, due to human misunderstanding. They have
typically only one offspring per year, making their comeback slow and in need of
our help. Coveside Conservation Products supports the Bat World Sanctuary
and Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit organizations dedicated to
educating the public about these beneficial animals and helping to conserve
The bat houses made by
Coveside Conservation Products are handcrafted of select, kiln-dried
eastern white pine for durability, attractiveness, and insulation qualities.
The walls are thick to keep the interior warm. They are rough-sawn to provide a
surface for the bats to hang onto.
Inside are several
partitions, because bats like narrow spaces, and this allows more surface room
for roosting bats. The houses are open at the bottom to eliminate the need for
cleaning, and to prevent birds from nesting in the house.
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