Bats in Your Backyard — it is a Good Thing
by Jan Nichols
Bats need a PR firm to change their reputation. Blame it on vampire movies, but in fact bats do a lot of important things for the environment. They fill key roles as seed dispersers, pollinators, and pest controllers (consuming huge numbers of insects especially mosquitos). Amazingly a nursing female bat can eat her body weight in insects in one night. In the United States bats primarily provide pest control. The corn industry benefits from over one billion dollars of free pest control annually courtesy of bats.
World-wide, bats represent one-quarter of all mammal species. North Carolina is home to 17 species. Of these, three are federally endangered and one is federally threatened. Ten other species are of “special concern.” For that reason, it is illegal to kill some bat species or block their roost. Pesticides, persecution, and disturbance of hibernacula and maternity colonies by humans have contributed
to the decline of many bat species. White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed more than 5.7 million bats across the U.S. since 2006 was found in North Carolina in 2011.
While you might want bats in your backyard, you don’t want them in your attic (or anywhere else in your home). If you do have bats as houseguests, you can call a professional for bat exclusion and removal. Evictions, as they are called, may not be done during the pup-rearing season from May 1 through July 31. During that time, if the mother is evicted, young bats can be trapped inside as they are unable to fly for several weeks after birth. When mom can’t return to nurse the babies, the result is starvation and dead bats inside your home.
Bats in North Carolina need your help.
Whether you want to provide bats an alternative to your attic or have them around for pest control, here are some things you can do.
• Install a bat house on your property. https://www.batcon.org/about-bats/bat-houses/
• Leave dead trees up instead of installing a bat house.
• Plant native plants with white flowers that are hosts for moth caterpillars and support night-flying insects that bats eat. A list of native plants is available at https://ncwildflower.org/recommended-native-species/
• Reduce the use of herbicides and insecticides.
• Help NC bat researchers learn more about where little brown bats occur in the state. If you have bats in your bat box, email firstname.lastname@example.org for help identifying them.
• Support organizations working to protect bats:
Donate to the NC Wildlife Diversity Endowment Fund. www.ncwildlife.org/Donate/ – or –
Bat Conservation International
Bats and COVID-19
Scientists are still investigating how the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic got into the human population. Regardless of the viral origins, COVID-19 is now a human disease and the risk of getting sick is from another person, not from wildlife. You cannot catch COVID-19 from a bat. More information is available at https://www.batcon.org/bats-covid-19-updates/.
Jan Nichols, a Chatham resident since 1990, has worked with NC non-profits including NC Public Television, the NC Justice Center and the Carnivore Preservation Trust. Currently she serves on the board of Sustainable Prosperity Inc.