One of my early memories is of a time when I was around three years old and a bat got into the old house we were living in while my father was at work doing third shift. My terrified mother, who was only 20 years old at the time, called the police. I remember my mother hiding in a corner with me while the two officers ran around the house with a broom and a blanket; they finally caught it with the blanket and whacked it to death with the broom.
When our eldest daughter was in third grade, her teacher did a unit on bats. The teacher really liked bats, which rubbed off on our daughter, who became an amateur bat PR person and conservationist. One day she came home sobbing because her best friend, who was not in Bat Teacher’s class, unthinkingly said that she didn’t like bats, they were icky and scary and had diseases.
“They *hic* aren’t icky, Mom,” our girl cried. “Th-there good. They eat bugs. They don’t try to bite people. They’re…*sob*…misunderstood! Bats are good!”
Yes, she was a sensitive child.
She even saved her allowance money and donated it to a bat conservation group. And she was always pestering her dad to help her build a bat house, which he never got around to doing.
But he’s getting around to doing it now, and you should too.
Why, you ask? Well, did you know that in the past seven years, 80% of the bats in the Northeast have died? That’s eighty percent! A fast moving epidemic caused by a fungal infection has wiped out millions of bats and the illness is spreading; last summer the disease, called White-Nose Syndrome, was confirmed in bats in Michigan.
This is not only tragic, it’s also very bad news for humans. Get ready to call the Orkin man because it’s about to get a whole lot buggier around here. Actually, instead of calling the Orkin man, let’s try to create some habitat to aid those bats that remain.
Because not only are bats one of the cutest animals with wings…
but they also eat lots of yucky bugs:
One insect-eating bat consumes about 2,000 to 6,000 insects each night. Bats eat their body weight in food each night. If you could eat as much as a bat, you would eat a stack of pizzas as tall as you are for dinner!
Hey, all you bats, I’ve got 2,000 to 6,000 insects available! In fact, once summer hits, I’ll have, oh, about 2 to 6 billion insects for you. Come on down to my pond for a free all-you-can-eat buffet, nightly at dusk.
When we were at the Dexter Mill several weeks ago to buy chicken feed for our beloved and *sniffle* now re-homed baby chicks (the rash on my arms is fading but still there, thanks for asking), we saw some bat houses on a shelf, so we stopped to have a look. My husband saw one that caught his fancy:
We have a number of dead standing trees in a boggy area behind our pond and these trees make the perfect home for bats. The directions explained that bat houses must be placed at least 15 feet from the ground on the south side of the tree with a clear flight path in (no low hanging branches or electrical wires), so my husband got a ladder and got to work:
Hopefully a small colony will set up home here soon and start consuming thousands of delicious, delicious bugs…
On the other side of the pond is where we’ve been planting our little orchard and will be putting in raised vegetable and herb beds, so I’ve got a use for the composted bat droppings that will hopefully build up under this tree.
The Cranbrook Institute here in southern Michigan is also home to the Organization for Bat Conservation. You can find directions to build your own bat house and a step-by-step video tutorial by following the link. We plan to make more bat houses to hang on dead trees and telephone poles, and I encourage everyone to do the same if you can.
According to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, “…a recent economic analysis indicated that insect suppression services provided by bats to U.S. agriculture is valued between 4 to 50 billion dollars per year.” That’s billion with a “b”. Losing 80% of our bats is going to put our farmers in a serious Battle of the Bugs. Let’s help them out…instead of Victory Gardens, let’s build Victory Bat Houses!
If only we had a bat poster like those slightly goofy but rather charming Victory Garden government posters…something like this, only with the family building a bat house instead of a garden:
or maybe a bat instead of a woman with a gun, swooping by to devour the pest with the title “Swoop to kill!” and “Protect your BATS”.
I’ll report back on the state of our future bat colony!