Bats Joining Our Mosquito Control Team
Bats are one of our most valuable allies in the fight against yard and garden pests and also in slowing the spread of insect-borne diseases. Bat houses are therefore a great addition to your backyard as well as our parks and recreation areas. Pequannock Township will promote natural mosquito control by installing our first bat house at Greenview Park, and possibly several other public areas around town. Check out the light pole next to Greenview pond for a look at the newly installed house.
The Township is looking for a Girl/Boy Scout to spearhead a bat house making project as part of earning their next rank. I know of another community where the scouts built the houses and assisted in installation throughout the community. It is a fun project that helps the environment, builds leadership and comradery.
Now some facts garnered from the internet; Bats eat a large number of flying insect and are the main nighttime predator of mosquitoes. A single little brown bat can eat between 600 and 1,200 mosquitoes an hour. Unlike their stereotype, bats are not blind, and are actually very clean animals. They do not get caught in peoples' hair or chew through the attic of your house. Bats will not interfere with feeding backyard birds, and they will not be disrupted by pets or children. The number of mosquitos eaten will vary depending on the predominant local bat species.
Many people have serious misconceptions about bats. Myths that they are vicious carriers of rabies and pests are abundant. Bats are actually quite harmless and are important indicators of a healthy environment. Bats are excellent, chemical free weapons in combating insects that are actually dangerous to humans.
With the increased media coverage of the Zika Virus, many communities are looking for effective ways to combat mosquitos and prevent the spread of the disease. The Zika Virus is spread through mosquitoes, and mosquitoes are a significant portion of a bat's diet. As previously stated, a small bat can capture as many as 1,200 mosquitoes in a single hour! Studies indicate bats cannot contract Zika by eating infected mosquitoes. In addition to mosquitoes, bats also help control the populations of beetles, moths and leafhoppers.
Even the very presence of bats in an area can reduce insect populations as many insects can hear bats up to 100 feet away and will keep their distance from areas occupied by bats. The effectiveness of bats in some areas diminishes the need for pesticides, which will harm both the pests and their natural predators.
Installing a bat house then is one of the most effective and environmentally friendly ways to reduce the mosquito population near your home. Bat house sizes range in capacity from holding 20 to over 100 bats. Most North American species of bats prefer to live in large groups, called colonies; so a mid-sized house (80-300 bats) is recommended for most situations. A bat house may be mounted on a tree, a pole without nearby obstructions, or a building. However, bat houses mounted on poles or buildings tend to have a slightly higher occupancy faster than those mounted on trees. For mounting on buildings, wood, stone or brick buildings are best; and the bat house should be mounted with southern exposure so the sun can keep it heated. You should mount your house 15-20 feet above the ground, the higher the house the greater the chance of attracting bats.
In New Jersey, it is advantageous to paint the bat house black to absorb plenty of heat (when baby bats are born, they need it very warm). Use non-toxic, latex paint to paint your bat house and only paint the outside. Bats return from migration and awaken from hibernation as early as March in most of the U.S. They will be abundant throughout the summer and into late fall. Most houses used by bats are occupied in the first 1 to 6 months (during the first summer the bat house was erected). If bats do not roost in your house by the end of the second summer, move the house to another location. Once the houses are occupied they should not be moved or cleaned.
These are just a few of the several excellent reasons to install bat houses in town or on your property. Many local bat populations are in danger or are already displaced due to habitat destruction and alteration by humans, so providing artificial roosts to replace lost habitat is a primary reason to install a bat house. Bat houses can have success even in suburban and urban areas. If you have ever seen bats flying around your neighborhood, a bat house will probably help. Installing a bat house and observing the occupants is an exciting and fun activity for the whole family.
People all over the world have discovered the benefits and wonder of using bat houses to attract bats to their own backyards. We hope you will join them by providing new homes for these gentle and fascinating mammals with a voracious appetite for troublesome insects.