By MELANIE VOLLICK
Do you like mosquitoes? Likely not! There are a number of different ways you can mitigate them.
You could cover yourself in a repellant that is full of harmful ingredients, try a natural product or put up a bat house and eliminate several thousand an hour. Just the other day while gardening, my toddler–who is 15 months old was bit on the eyelid. His eye swelled shut. So, I bought myself a bat house, and installed it on the side of our small barn which is conveniently close to the garden and house.
Most people don’t like bats–but if they control the mosquitoes that have made my toddler’s eye look like he was hit with a baseball bat, then power to the bats!
Bats worlwide provide us with numerous benefits: they are an important part of our ecosystem and an indicator of a healthy environment. When speaking with Christy MacDonald, a fish and wildlife specialist, she suggested that, “bats are often feared and misunderstood despite the fact that these creatures are an invaluable and beneficial part of our natural environment and have fascinating abilities making them one of the most intersting species in Ontario.”
They look like a flying mouse, and a common name for them was once, flitter mouse. Hanging upside-down by their hooked hind leg with their wings folded around them like a cloak, they are the only mammals capable of sustaining self propelled flight.
In many parts of the world, bats suffer from a bad reputation. Regarded as carriers of rabies, bats are considered blood-eaters, and beasts that tangle themselves in people’s hair. For Simcoe-Muskoka, no positive rabies cases in 2009 have been recorded. In 2008 we had only two positive bats (Midhurst & Coldwater areas). In fact, rabies is uncommon in most of the world’s bats; only three of the more than 850 species of bats in the world are vampires, and bats do not deliberately tangle themselves in people’s hair.
In Ontario, there are eight different species of bats: Big Brown, Little Brown, Eastern Pipistrelle, Silver-haired, Hoary, Red, Small-footed, and the Northern Long-eared. The most common of these is the little brown bat, which is the only bat in Ontario that prefers to eat mosquitos. This bat also eats moths, plant bugs, and flies, which makes your gardening experience more enjoyable. These are just a few insects that the little brown bat eats.
In the farming industry, bats are known as the “farmers’ hired hand” because of the quantity of insects they consume. In an hour, they can consume 600 to 1,000 mosquitos and are known to eat one half of their body weight in insects! Remember, birds are off-duty at night, and bats are an important form of natural control for insects such as mosquitoes, and it is in our own interest to perpetuate them.
The more solitary bats, such as Silverhaired, Hoary, Red and Northern Longeared will tend to live in trees or brush in the summer and they eat a variety of insects including moths, beetles, flies and termittes. Some of these bats, like the Silver-haired, Red and Hoary, will migrate long distances for the winter months, some as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and the others hibernate in locations where the temperature is relatively stable, usually caves.
Each year bats are forced to live closer with humans and must compete with us for food, shelter and space. Their habitats are being destroyed due to population growth and development. To help control the insect population and provide a habitat for the bats– instead of your attic, build a bat house or purchase one at your local hardware store or The Environment Network Shoppe in Collingwood.
Every species has a purpose, and if bats move in to your attic, draw them out by finding the entry/exit sites. Install one way doors over the holes so that when they leave, they can not return. The best time to exclude bats is in the fall when they are looking for other roosting sites for hibernating. During May to August, bats may have their young; this is not a good time for exclusion. Share your backyard with these fascinating night patrollers, and please, protect them.
If you have any questions about the environment, please, feel free to e-mail the Environment Network @