Bats-Nature’s Flying Pest Control

Bats are mammals of the order, Chiroptera. They are the only true flying mammals capable of sustained flight, as opposed to gliding. Bats inhabit large areas of the world. Here in Frederick County, there are two most common: the little brown, and the big brown bat. These are both very small animals, though.

Photo courtesy of Earth Times

Bats are very beneficial animals, and consume large quantities of night flying insects. It is common to see these animals flying around, dodging and weaving on warm summer evenings in their quest for insects, including mosquitos.

Contrary to some myths, they are not blind, but do use a form of echo location in their hunting activities. They do not fly into and become entangled in human hair. They are normally shy and harmless nocturnal animals. Bats are not related to mice, rats, or other rodents.

Female bats birth their young, called “pups,” in the spring and early summer. In a couple of weeks, the young are flying. The mother nurses and raises one or two pups a year. Bats can live as long as twenty years.

Since they are mammals, they are susceptible to rabies with a very small percentage of contamination. Since an extremely small possibility exists of encountering a rabid bat, human contact should be avoided to preclude bites or scratches. Accidental contact should be treated as a potential for rabies, however, and medical help sought.

Bats have been threatened by a disease called “white-nose syndrome,” that is caused by a fungus. It has killed large numbers of the animals. Some species have become endangered due to this.

Normal habitat is caves and hollow trees. Lacking these options, they will roost and hibernate in attics and other spaces around humans. Their droppings, called guano, can cause undesirable odors and respiratory diseases. For these reasons, they should be excluded from human habitations. It is illegal to kill bats; other methods of removing undesired animals can be utilized. Animal control or commercial removal companies can get rid of undesired bats in habitations. Openings to attics and other areas where they can gain entry should be properly sealed. This should only be done at proper times, however. Nursing pups and hibernating bats could be trapped in sealed buildings.

Bat houses can be provided in appropriate locations to increase the amount of habitation for bats. There is lots of information available about bats. The University of Maryland Extension and the Maryland DNR are only two such sources. Bats are very beneficial to humans, and are well deserving of our admiration and protection.

Article by Claude Eans, Frederick County Forest Conservancy District Board Member

Nature Note for 5/26/2019