Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - April 5, 2007)
Bats in the belfry
Whether its raining out, uncomfortably chilly, or hot and humid (unless of
course its sweltering), I prefer the windows open to the great out of doors.
The sound of the birds chirping and singing, the wind rustling the leaves, the rain
drops falling, even the traffic noise way off in the distance; all these sounds
come together creating an open-air symphony.
|Photo by MERLIN TUTTLE, BAT CONSERVATION
|The beneficial Gray Bat is
listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species
Skyscraper office buildings with permanently sealed windows, elevators ascending
to closed-in, filtered-air cubicles are nothing more than jail cells for someone
like me. I fear I have been unable to adapt. If Im at a restaurant I request
to be seated next to the window, and if the blind is down I gently raise it just so
I can see out underneath.
Im happiest in the midst of a park or wilderness, so my husband, Rick, and I
have set about building a modest version of our own park, one piece of wood, one
plant, one tree at a time. Bird feeders first and foremost, bird baths, bird
houses, native plantings and little hidey places scattered among the
gardens design provide shelter for wildlife. Ironically, even a bit humorous,
it seems our best offered accommodations are often overlooked by the garden
wildlife, opting instead for alternate, unpredictable locations as in the nesting
Carolina Wrens upon our outdoor stereo speaker and an old clay pot atop my garden
I remember my mother having two clothespin bags hanging from the clothes line. One
she used for herself, the other she offered to a nesting pair of wrens that
returned year after year. We have yet to install our martin houses this year. These
took a beating from the weather the last couple of years and Im concerned I
will not hear their early arrival which should be any day now. However the cicadas
have emerged to join into the chorus of spring.
The hitch in my get along (as Betty-Mom would say) in my open air
existence is insects. Even with the most efficient screens, insects seem to find
their way inside from my garden sanctuary. In our effort to naturally decrease the
mosquito population we need to work on those martin houses, as well, this year
weve decided to install bat houses. There are many designs and plans for bat
houses available from the Internet and local garden and nature stores.
A few dozen bats can make a big difference in a neighborhood, said
Mark Hostetler, extension wildlife specialist with University of Floridas
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Many species can eat 1,000
flying insects per night, including mosquitoes, moths, flies anything they
Not all bat species will use a bat house, just the social ones. In
the U.S. Southeast youre most likely to attract Brazilian free-tailed bats,
Southeastern bats and evening bats. Because bats are peaceful creatures, multiple
species will sometimes share the same house.
There are many myths about bats. They do not get caught in your hair and they
rarely transmit disease. Bats are not rodents. Bats are actually more closely
related to primates such as, monkeys and humans. The Indiana bat and the gray bat
are listed as endangered species. Having been sensationalized for hundreds of years
by writers, artists, ignorance, myth, superstition and last but not least
filmmakers, bats are probably the most misunderstood mammal upon earth.
When one thinks of bats they automatically envision Halloween costumes,
voraciously hungry vampires and evil witches. Bats are remarkably beneficial
mammals feeding on night-flying insects. According to the University of Florida
Cooperative Extension Service, Each bat eats about its weight in food every
night. This means that even a small colony, numbering several hundred individuals,
consumes hundreds of pounds of insects every year. These insectivorous bats have
tiny sharp teeth for chewing insects. Bats lack the chisel-like incisors of rodents
thus, cannot use their teeth to gnaw wood or wires in structures.
In Florida, all bats are classified as native non-game wildlife by the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and are protected by law from wanton
destruction. Bats can become a nuisance if they enter our homes and commercial
bats in the belfry.
USF has a wealth of information on how to safely remove or exclude bats from our
homes and businesses. As the population of nature lovers realizes that bats are
beneficial they are increasingly putting up bat houses.
Although there are two families and 18 species of bats that breed in the eastern
United States, only 13 species are known to breed in Florida including the
Brazilian free-tailed bat, Eastern Pipistrel, evening bat, Floridas largest
resident and endangered bat the Florida bonneted bat, Floridas second
largest bat species the hoary bat, the endangered gray bat, northern yellow
bat, Rafinesques big-eared bat, red bat, Seminole bat, Southeastern bat and
the velvety free-tailed bat.
Open the windows. Let in the natural, fresh air. Get out the hammer, wood and
nails. Create a home for natures natural pest patrol. Lets get batty
back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.