Help Save the Bats

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Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
Bats are a natural form of pest control if left to their own devices.

Help Save the Bats

Of the 46 bat species that live in the United States and Canada, most have experienced serious population declines over the past half century. Six are on the federal endangered species list: the gray bat, the Indiana bat, the lesser long-nosed bat, the Mexican long-nosed bat, the Virginia big-eared bat and the Ozark big-eared bat. Here are a few ways you can help, and have bats help control mosquito populations in your back yard.

Avoid Caves and Abandoned Mines

Many factors, from general habitat degradation to the widespread use of insecticides that reduce the bats’ foraging options, contribute to their overall decline. But the primary cause is the loss of hibernacula, places in which the mammals can hibernate without human disturbance. When you’re a bat, a cave or abandoned mine with a stable temperature above freezing is the ideal place to hang out for the winter. For decades, federal and state agencies have worked to install gates that allow bats to go in and out of caves and unused mines, but prevent access by people. Still, many mines and caves remain unprotected. If you know of a cave or abandoned mine where bats live, stay away from it — particularly during the hibernation season, from late summer through spring — and report its presence to wildlife officials for possible protection.

Turn Off the Bug Zappers

The lights from electronic bug zappers are designed to lure insects to a crackling demise. But the biting insects that zappers are intended to control are not attracted to light. Instead, moths — the primary prey of most North American bats — as well as other insects on the bats’ diets are the zappers’ victims. Mosquitoes and other “pest” insects are terminated much more efficiently by bats than by zappers, and bats are far more likely to be attracted to your yard when it offers a sumptuous menu of tasty moths.

Put Up Bat Houses

About a dozen crevice-roosting bat species in North America are attracted to well-designed bat houses. Such houses provide critical shelter, particularly in the spring and summer when mother bats need safe places in which to raise their young. It’s important, however, to use a properly constructed bat house, and to install the house at least 10 feet above the ground in a place that will receive the right amount of solar exposure for your region. You’ll find more information on bat houses, including plans to build your own, from the bat groups listed below.

Bat Conservation International

Bat Conservation and Management

Organization for Bat Conservation