October 10, 2007 at 3:56 am
This weekend we spent the day at the park, not on a picnic eating wonderful organic food and enjoying nature. Instead, 6 children and 3 adults were working hard on an organic pest control project. We puzzled over building plans and heavily perspired as we attempted to screw, caulk, and score our creation.
Most people, when they think about organic pest control, think along the lines of some eco-friendly spray or perhaps a companion planting that will remove or deter some pest. Sometimes the most effective thing we can do is to look to nature to find the original control for the unwanted irritant.
In this case, the targeted pest was the mosquito. Mosquitos can quickly take the fun out of a fishing trip or picnic. Not only are their bites uncomfortable, they can sometimes transmit more serious diseases. There are some environmentally safe methods that can be used, but applying these to a large state park is a big and expensive job.
The next best control is none other than your friendly neighborhood bat. Bats have earned a bad reputation largely because of the folklore that surrounds them. Bats do not attack people, fly purposely into hair, or transmit many cases of rabies. You are more likely to get rabies from your family pet than from bats.
Bats are useful wildlife. The little Brown Bat is recorded to be able to eat 600 insects in one hour! Try doing that with a fly swatter! Not only do bats eat insects, a few are also pollinators. Bats generally produce only one pup (baby bat) a year. Therefore, their population can easily be effected by disturbances. Bats are also sensitive to pollution, making them one of the indicator species for a healthy environment.
Needless to say though, people don’t want bats in their homes even if they are wonderful at eliminating night insects. So, how do you attract bats without having them live with you? You build them their own bat house. For more information on safely moving bats out of your house or attracting bats to your yard, check with your local game commission.
The bat houses we built Saturday will each hold 250 females and their pups. They will use the house as a summer nursery. Male bats usually prefer to roost in loose bark on trees. Once fall arrives, they will migrate back to caves and mines to overwinter.
Achieving an environment free of harmful chemicals takes some work, but in the long run, it is so worth the effort. Who can resist standing outside a bat nursery counting the bats as they come out? We counted over 500 one night as we watched them exit a house for a nightly feed. Oh, and we came home with zero mosquito bites.