It’s a warm summer evening and you go outside to lie in the hammock while reading a good book or maybe you have friends over for an evening cookout. You aren’t outside long before you start slapping and scratching and scratching and slapping. You quickly retreat inside to consider your next move against the mosquito. So how can you combat mosquitoes?
You can always rub mosquito repellent on your body. Mosquito repellent is frequently sticky feeling, oddly scented and short lasting.
You can spray your yard with chemicals and hope that they don’t harm any beneficial animals or insects.
You can buy special lights that will kill mosquitoes when they fly too close. You spend your evening listening to zap, zap, zap.
You can attract bats to your backyard.
Yes, I said attract bats to your backyard. Bats are one of nature’s great insectivores. Some species of bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes or other insects per hour.
If bats are such great insect eaters, why don’t people put up bat houses like they do bird houses? Bats have never gotten really good PR. They fly at night and are difficult to see. Many people believe that they carry rabies. However, only 1% or less of bats carry rabies and even then they are not likely to attack humans. Blood sucking is another false belief. Bats don’t suck blood. There are vampire bats in South America that make a small slit in the hide of cattle and lap up the blood that flows from the cut. They only lap up about 2 teaspoons a night, not enough to harm the animal. For a long time bats have been associated with vampires, death, decay and evil in Western culture. However, in Chinese culture they symbolized longevity and happiness.
The Amazing Bat:
Let’s look at the bat for the amazing creature it is. Bats are mammals and the only mammal that can fly. They can see but depend on a much more interesting sense to guide them – echolocation. By emiting a high-pitched sound and with the resulting echoes they can avoid obstacles and find prey. This sense is so refined in bats that they can avoid items no larger than a hair. Their wings are made of a thin membrane which allows bats to maneuver more quickly and accurately than birds. If this membrane gets torn it can quickly heal. At the edge of this membrane bats have their hands – very adaptive hands. Bat culture varies. Some live solitary lives and others cluster in very large communities. Some of these communities may have over 1,000,000 bats in them. Bats generally hibernate during the winter months unless they live in tropical areas. Some species will hibernate as much as 8 months of the year.
How can you attract bats to your yard? You need to put up a bat house. What do they look for in a house?
In general the taller and wider the house is the better.
Multi-chambered houses are generally better than single chamber houses.
The internal surfaces need to be scratched or roughened or covered with mesh so that the bats will have something to cling to.
Bat houses do need vents to allow for air circulation.
Since bats are warm blooded animals they must stay warm during the day. You must place your house where it will receive full, all day sun except in the hottest climates. The internal temperature of the house should stay between 80° F and 100° F during the day.
The color of your house can affect its temperature. Use darker colored houses when you have less sun; the darker colors will absorb the sun’s heat.
Bat houses should be mounted on buildings or poles. Houses mounted on trees are less likely to attract bats and more likely to attract predators.
Bats will be attracted to houses mounted near waters edge or along a forest edge. However, houses should be mounted at least 20 to 25 feet from the nearest tree branches to protect from predators.
The houses should be at least 12 feet off the ground – 15 to 20 feet is even better.
Clean out the bat house in early spring before the bats return from hibernation. Be certain to clean out any wasp nests as they can discourage bats from using the house.
You can provide the perfect bat house and they still may not come. If no bats have occupied your bat house after the first year, try moving it around. There is nothing that you can do to entice bats to nest in your bat house. If they do like your house, you may find your summer evenings free of slap and scratch, scratch and slap.