Saturday, January 15, 2011
Batty for Bugs...or...Buggy for Bats
Bats are mammals, and certainly not an arthropod, but I figured since they feed on numerous insects it would be okay to feature a couple of bats that came into my possession this past week. They have long been one of my favorite creatures. I've put up bat houses to encourage them to take up residence on our farm. So far they have not used the houses, but I do see bats feeding on the insects at the pole lights.
This face that only a mother could love belongs to an Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis) and it showed up in a persons house in St. Joseph. Animal Control was called and rescued the bat. I received a phone call asking me if I would take it and find a safe place to release it. It is very difficult in the winter to rescue these little guys. Releasing them outside is obviously out of the question and not just any location will meet their requirements. The area must be cold in order to encourage hibernation, yet not too cold to freeze them to death. It cannot be too warm or it will encourage them to awaken and fly around. This activity will cause them to use up valuable fat stores and may result in them being unable to survive the rest of the winter. Fortunately on our farm we have such a location in the form of an old farrowing house. It is a large building with a peaked ceiling. We have a small amount of heat in the building to keep water lines from freezing. You can still see your breathe in the building. So I captured a few quick images of this little beauty and then quickly placed it in the farrowing house.
The Little Brown Bat species is very small at 2.4 -4.0 inches in length and a wingspan up to 11 inches. They weigh a mere 1/2 ounce. They have shiny pale brown to dark brown fur. Their coat is evenly covered, and the hairs on their toes extend to cover the toenails. This is a long lived species and may live up to 34 years, with males living longer than females.
There are fourteen species of bats living in Missouri and each of them are insect eaters. We do not have vampire bats or fruit bats in Missouri. Therefore all Missouri bats are helpful to us by controlling insect populations. It has often been said that they eat thousands of mosquitoes in a single evening. While it is true that they are capable of eating mosquitoes, they however prefer larger prey insects like moths. The larger the insect the more energy and calories gained. It is kind of like showing up at a buffet and choosing to eat a salad. Does any of us really do that? Nah, of course not.....
Bats do however carry rabies, and this is a very real threat. Approximately 40 cases are reported annually in Missouri of bats that test positive for rabies. Considering there are millions of bats living in Missouri this is a relatively low number. There are about 1/2 of 1 percent of bats that carry the virus. Bites typically occur when people find a bat out during the day and handle the bat, or they handle one that mistakenly makes its way into your home. Never under any circumstances handle a bat that is out during daylight hours, instead call your local Animal Control Center. If one makes it into your home, use caution and never try to handle one without sufficient gloves. It is best to call Animal Control.
Our local Animal Control has me on their call list to take bats for release and rehab. I have completed training through a licensed Wildlife rehabilitation Center and have my name listed with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
There is no reason to live in fear of bats, they are one of the cleanest animals in existence. They spend a huge amount of time grooming themselves. The chance of rabies infection is low, and they provide valuable insect control. Lastly they are just plain cool!!!!