The world got together from October 25-31 to celebrate the role of bats in nature. International Bat Week is organized by numerous organizations: Bat Conservation International, Organization for Bat Conservation, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Acoustics, Lubee Bat Conservancy, and the Save Lucy Campaign. On October 31, Bat Conservation International invited North Americans to join in a world record attempt: the construction of 5000 bat houses in a day. The total number of bat houses built this Halloween has not been released, as of the time of this writing.
Bat Facts and Myths
From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, bats inhabit our myths, fiction, and folklore. Much of what you know about bats, however, may simply be superstition — particularly fears stemming from rabies, parasites, and blood-sucking. Thomas G. Barnes, Extension Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist, wrote “Bats: Information for Kentucky Homeowners” to help dispel societal fear of bats.
Contrary to common belief:
- Most bats are not rabid. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife notes that “[l]ess than one half of one percent carry rabies.”
- Bat droppings in buildings are usually not a source of histoplasmosis.
- Bats are not filthy and will not infest homes with dangerous parasites.
- Bats are not aggressive and will not attack people or pets.
- Kentucky bats do not feed on blood. (The vampire bat, which does feed on blood, lives in Latin America, more than 1,000 miles from Kentucky.)
Bats improve the environment by consuming mosquitoes and crop-harming insects like stink bugs. Barnes notes that one little brown bat “may eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour.”
Where Bats Live
Bats do not prefer our homes, but they do occasionally stumble inside. Bats are naturally drawn to caves. A recent USDA blog post discusses the role of caves in nature, including housing bats. Cynthia Sandeno, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service’s Eastern Region, says:
“Natural caves are some of the most unique and complex resources managed by the Forest Service. Caves are also home to many living things like bats that play a vital role in our everyday lives, by controlling insects and pollinating plants like agave.”
In the case that a bat does choose your attic to roost, the best control method is exclusion which is outlined in Barnes’ publication. After you bat-proof your house, you might even build the bat a home of his own. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension offers a peer-reviewed bat housing building guide, covering bat house design, placement, and maintenance.
Learn more about bats by visiting Bat Conservation International online, or contact your local extension office for bat information.