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This & That

The Bats are Back

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When we first moved into our home four years ago we used to spy a few bats feasting in our backyard on a fairly regular basis, but somewhere along the way they seemed to move on to better living spaces or tastier places. This made me sad long before the rise of the Zika virus and the new suburban bat lovers who are suddenly embracing these mosquito-eating machines.

So imagine my delight this week when I stepped out onto the deck and spied two bats speeding back and forth across our backyard with seemingly ravenous appetites. Maybe it was just coincidence, but this mosquito-magnet of a girl didn’t get a single bug bite while the bats were around, and of course my son thought the whole show was pretty awesome.

My thoughts immediately went to ways to keep these little flying bug eaters coming back, so I did some research and found a few ideas to help roll out the welcome mat if it’s bats you embrace.

First, let me say that I found several ways to increase the bug population in one’s yard thereby attracting more bats, but our home backs up to a lot of timbered acreage — we have bugs, and I don’t want more. At first this approach seemed counter-productive (I want bats so that I don’t have bugs) but after some thought I realized that bats don’t just eat the pesky biting bugs, they also eat tons of insects that have no urge to suck human blood. Would you go to a restaurant with only one thing on the menu?

So going full-circle, here’s what I found for encouraging and keeping beneficial bats coming back. . .

Embrace bugs! Chances are you already have bugs (i.e. pesky disease-carrying mosquitoes), so what’s a few more. Lure a variety of night-flying insects to your yard by having a water source, planting flowers that smell good at night and adding an outdoor light or two.

Skip the chemicals. Avoid pesticides, insecticides and other harmful chemicals in your yard that can make bats sick if ingested.

Make it Homey. Some species of bats will roost in dead or dying trees, but most of us don’t want to keep potentially hazardous huge items on our property for a variety of reasons, so making bat houses is another option. If you do a search online, you will find dozens of DIY options that should suit you and your future winged creatures just fine. While I can’t vouch for the best style or even say they work, this project is high on my To-Do list. You should also pay special attention to the best places to hang your bat houses after they are made.

So if you like the idea of bringing life to your night sky, these suggestions are a good place to start. While there’s no guarantee the little winged mammals will want to call your neighborhood “home,” try supplying them with lots of food, a little water and a cozy place to hang their tiny bat hats.

 photo credit: Malaysian Flying Fox at Singapore Zoo via photopin (license)

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