Where have our bats gone? In the 14 plus years we have lived here we have had bats return to the very same spot each year at approximately at the very same time. We wonder if their absence this year could be due to the white nosed bat syndrome. See Mother Earth News article:
These mammals are amazing little creatures and in past years have kept our homestead free of pesky mosquito’s. They are like airborne vacuum cleaners when it comes to mosquito’s. These little guys migrate each fall and then in late spring they return to precisely the very same location. In the photo there is a gap in the eve where they previously housed themselves. I built the bat brooding house which I placed next to the gap and they used it for a few years coupled with the gap in the eve. They are remarkable in their efficiency and never posed any problem for us. I could see them enter the bat brooding house and gap from my recliner and looking out our triangle window in the front of the house. When we would watch them do aerial acrobatics and twist and turn in the air as they were gobbling up untold numbers of mosquito’s which they were locating with their precise sonar. For more on these amazing creatures see Mother's article Fantastic Bats!
The family of 5-8 bats has returned each year except this year. When I read the above article about white nose syndrome I hoped it would not infect our bat family. We have watched what we assume is the same family for years and seen adult bats and very small bats and they keep coming back each year. Not this year however! We understand that old mines and caves which they live in collapse and trap them inside. Some are collapsed on purpose by the owners when they are done with them. Where we camp and prospect each year there are many old abandon mines and they have all been closed off with metal bars that the bats can fly through freely but designed to keep people and animals out. Some years we would have as many as 5-8 bats and other times as few as three, but they always returned. Not this year YET, and we keep hoping they will come back but each passing day the chances get less and less. Perhaps its due to our drought this year. There are fewer places for the mosquito’s to breed and thus their food source has diminished, although they did not come back to even check on availability of a food source.
What ever the reason our bat’s have not returned and while many may consider us foolish in wanting the bats to return we really do miss not having them around. We know that they can carry various diseases but we have always considered that a moot issue when we added up all the benefit we derived from their presence and not all bats are disease carriers anyway. We calculate that we are more likely to become ill from all the plague and disease carried by white footed mice as opposed to bats. We seem to have plenty of those mice around along with voles and moles. Well we used to until a family of owls moved into our neighborhood. What ever happened to our bats this year we can only hope it has not been fatal and that they will one day come back. How they can find their way back to the same precise location year after year is totally beyond me, but I’m happy for this ability to do this. Much like a hummingbird that migrates in the late fall and then one day in springtime they suddenly are hovering right where we left their feeder the year before. How a flying mammal or bird the size of your little finger can migrate several hundred miles to a precise area boggles my mind. Some travel very long distances. So where have our bats gone?? We wish we knew, but what we do know is that we truly miss them and the benefit they provide us.
I once read that it is the male mosquito that buzzes trying to attract a female mosquito. That female mosquito's do not buzz so when you hear a lot of buzzing don't worry it is male mosquito's. I'm not hearing any buzzing this year so we really want our bats to return so we don't end up with an over population of 'quiet' female mosquito's. I'm starting to get worried.