Bats In The Belfry? HOORAY!

Image via Big Dog's Bird Blog
I was visiting my aunt J. the other day and we got into a conversation about all the animals that have made their way into our respective homes.  I had her beat by a long shot.  She only had a recurring visit from a persistent squirrel...I mentioned to her that was nothing. As I went through the list of animal-visitors, I got around to mentioning the bat that recently visited my husband and me one balmy evening.  "A bat?", as she made a face, "what did you do about it?"

I explained to her that I was trying to get it out without hurting and/or killing it. I also mentioned to her that I wish we had more of them. Again she made a face but then asked me a really important question, that more people should ask themselves when it comes to ANY "nature" that intrudes upon "our territory".

What benefit are bats to us?

When most people think about bats, the reaction usually is less than appreciative of what this animal brings to the ecological table.  Conversation typically turns to concerns about rabies, blood-sucking and tangled hair.  While these are all very valid concerns, the reality is that bats -  yes even Vampire bats - get a bad rap.  For that matter, most species of bats subsist on fruits or insects.  Various types of bats, depending on the species, are incredibly beneficial to us in many different ways.
  • They provide extremely nutritious guano which is used for a variety of things - most notably as fertilizer.
  • They are important in the propagation of plants and trees - particularly fruit trees such as mangoes (a personal favorite) and it is believed that they are also significantly responsible for keeping the rain forests forested.
  • They eat incredible amounts of insects, which living in New York City with the constant reminders about mosquitoes and West Nile Virus, is of particular interest to me.  One bat can consume about 3000 insects in a night.  That's a lot of mosquitoes.
Culex mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus shown)...Image via Wikipedia
Dare I say, we should really encourage their propagation.  It is easier than it may seem and can be done safely if one is committed to helping bats to help us.  It is all about building, timing, temperature and good eats.  Bats can be encouraged by building Bat Boxes in just the right place as to provide shelter, warmth and food sources.

While bats should not be reviled as they typically are, rabies and some other diseases are still a very important concern.  If you are ever confronted by a bat, as we were, do NOT touch it if at all possible.  The first thing you should do of course is to remove any children and pets from the area and call your local animal care & control agency.  I am NOT encouraging anyone to handle a bat but if you feel you are in a position in which you must remove a bat yourself, there are safe ways of doing so.  Following are some great resources for learning to coexist with bats.


Department of Environment Convservation - Bats of New York
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