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I would like more information about bats. Do you have any information you can share?

Now that we are learning how effective bats are at providing insect and mosquito control, they seem less like the scary, little creatures we once thought. There are over 1,000 species of bats, 70 percent of which eat insects and they are the primary predators of moths and night flying insects. There are several other common misconceptions about bats that we now know: They are not dirty. They spend about 50 percent of their time grooming themselves, they do not get stuck in your hair and they do not transmit rabies any more so than any other wild animal. Some bats are carnivorous feeding on fish, frogs, and rodents, some feed on nectar and pollen, which makes them important as pollinators and some, called flying foxes, are fruit eaters. In their search for fruit, the flying foxes pollinate flowers and spread seeds for new trees and plants helping in the regeneration of the tropical rain forest. Guano (bat manure) has been used for centuries as a very beneficial crop fertilizer.

Bats usually feed at night and roost or sleep during the day. They are a farmer’s friend, because while they are out foraging at night they eat over 300 bugs an hour, mostly mosquitoes, moths, locusts, and grasshoppers, which are the main bugs that destroy crops and spread disease. And because they are nocturnal, they are responsible for the pollination of a lot of night blooming plants. Without them we would not enjoy eating many bananas, avocados, dates, figs, mangoes, or agave cactus.

Bats greatest enemy have been humans and the fear we harbor for these helpful mammals. With the loss of old growth forests for habitat, and with pesticide spraying in the evenings when bats are working, many species are threatened. Putting up a bat house is a great way to entice and increase populations. There are several styles that you can buy including ones that are bat and bird house combos. And there are also plans available so you can build your own.

Mounting a bat house on poles or the side of a building is preferred because putting them in trees makes them vulnerable to predators. Temperature inside the house is critical so the color of the exterior of the house and its placement are important. Planting herbs that are fragrant and flowers that release their scent at night will help the bats locate your new bat house and encourage them to take up residence.

For more information on bats visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at www.fws.gov.