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Alison Arnold - Bats!

Poor Jeremy had quite the night a few weeks back when a bat got into his apartment and was looking scary, flying around, and generally doing bat things.  BPR gardening expert Alison Arnold thought Jeremy's misfortune was a great excuse to talk about the benefits of the little creatures.

Alison Arnold: Of the 17 bat species that occur in North Carolina, seven  are either endangered, threatened or of special concern with their populations declining all over the United States from pesticide use and human disturbance of their habitats. They are primarily nocturnal and forage in the early evening and early morning hours.

Jeremy Loeb: But do they like to come inside? I thought they preferred caves and outdoor spaces?

Yeah generally people think of bats as living in caves, and while some bat species actually migrate south for the winter and others find local hibernation areas for the winter such as caves. In the summer time though many species of bats actually live in trees, behind the bark, in rock crevices and in and around man made structures such as buildings, barns, and under bridges.

Bats are beneficial aren’t they?

Yes.. bats are important to ecosystems worldwide. Bats living in tropical or desert regions for instance are major pollinators while northern species can have a major impact on controlling insect populations. Big Brown Bats are common in our area and eat insects such as beetles, wasps, flies, gnats, and mosquitos. A single Big brown bat can eat between  3,000  and  7,000 mosquitos  in  a  night!

Say more about Bats being important pollinators?

Yeah well when the sun goes down and the bees and butterflies clock out bats and moths clock in for the pollinator night shift. Again its mainly in tropical and desert climates where bats feed on the insects in the flowers as well as on the nectar and flower parts and pollinate as they go. Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. Mangoes, banana, guavas and even the Agave and Saguaro cactus depend upon bats for pollination. 

Are the flowers that bats pollinate fragrant?

Well yes they are fragrant but with a sweet fermented type of fragrance!

I hear of people putting up bat houses to attract bats… what does this involve?

OK so spring is a good time to put up bat houses and you know they are different than bird houses and so it’s good to look up those plans or buy one premade. Now they wont begin to use them immediately but if you have wet areas nearby such as ponds, streams and seasonal pools – they’ll have a good supply of water and insects.  It can take a couple of years for bats to find and use an artificial roost like a bat house. But if you have caves, boulder areas, or dead hollow tree snags nearby – you might already have some these night flying insect eaters already!

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