Leapin’ Lizards! It’s a Flying Mammal!

by Melanie Stewart

For the past two weeks we’ve been talking about methods for controlling mosquitos and other bugs, so you can be comfortable in your own backyard and not lose your garden.  Birds are great, but we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about bats.

Yes, I know, bats freak a lot of people out and convincing people to like them is an uphill battle.  I’m going to try anyway.

First, the myths.

  • They don’t get in your hair. They fly in seemingly erratic patterns chasing bugs that change direction quickly, so they are quick too.
  • You aren’t going to get rabies. Less than ½ of 1% of bats have rabies and if they get it, the most common symptom is paralysis, so odds of you getting rabies from a bat is infinitesimally low.

    Melanie Stewart sustainability manager
    Melanie Stewart
    sustainability manager
  • They don’t want anything to do with you or your house. They find their way through small openings by your chimney, eaves, or windows, when seeking a place to sleep.  They can get in if feeding on bugs at a light near a door.  Seal cracks, plug holes, repair screens, and apply wire mesh to the top of your chimney to prevent entry.  Turn off outside lights so you don’t attract bugs.

Having dealt with the myths, let’s talk about why I’m a fan.  I hate bugs.  I understand why they are important, but the pests that whine in my ear, suck my blood, carry diseases, and are general nuisances make it hard for me to enjoy being outside.  And I love being outside.

All bats found in Nebraska and Iowa are insectivores, feeding solely on flying insects like mosquitoes.  In fact, one Little Brown Bat can eat 600-1200 mosquito-sized insects every hour.  And they hunt all night!  In consuming thousands of bugs, they prevent those bugs from breeding more bugs, and that’s a win-win in my book.

Bats help farmers.  The more bugs bats eat, the less insecticide farmers need to use, saving millions of dollars and keeping food cleaner.  A colony of 150 Big Brown Bats (weighing a whopping ¾ of an ounce) can eat enough cucumber beetles in a single season to prevent hatching 33 million more!

You can still pretend they don’t exist, or love them so much you put up a bat house, but either way, bats are your backyard buddies!

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