Many people see bats fluttering around at dusk and get nervous. Some get downright scared. There’s no need for this hysteria. Bats fill an important role in the ecosystem and provide us comfort at the same time.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone accuse bats of diving and trying to hurt them. This is never true. Bats are going after the mosquitoes and other biting flies that are attacking humans and other animals. Bats have no interest in humans and won’t get tangled in people’s hair. Also, they’re not blind. Bats navigate mostly by sound waves, but they can see.
It’s true that bats can carry the rabies virus, but very small percentages are infected. The only time I’d be nervous is if I saw a bat active during the day. They’re naturally nocturnal, so seeing a solitary one when they should be sleeping might throw a flag.
However, one is far more likely to contract rabies from raccoons, skunks or foxes. They are all basically nocturnal too. Even feral cats would be a greater risk as people would be more likely to come in contact with one.
Also, the only way to contract rabies from bats or other animals for that matter is to get bitten by one. The rabies virus is passed through saliva. Coming in contact with bat droppings won’t inoculate someone with the virus.
I realize people don’t want bats making homes in their attics. Getting rid of them can be complicated. First of all, since they are active at night, sealing up entrances and exits during the day might serve to seal them in. That’s not good.
If you have a bat problem, it might be best to call a professional. They have some techniques that could solve the problem without harming the bats. Bat waste is not something we want in our homes. It has a smell similar to that from mice, so it’s not aesthetically pleasing.
North Carolina is home to 16 species of bats. Some can consume as many as 600 mosquitoes per hour. Mosquito borne diseases are a major problem worldwide. Bats also consume insects that damage farm crops. They also help pollinate plants too.
We can help establish a healthy bat population by planting flowers that attract insects. This will give bats a food source to supplement their appetite for mosquitoes. We can also build bat houses. This can also lure them out of places we don’t want them, like our attics.
Why should we be concerned about bats? More than a third of all bat species are either threatened or endangered. Once we lose them they are gone forever.
I remember when I was a kid we used to throw rocks in the air at dusk and see if we could get the bats to follow them. It was cool to watch these tiny mammals fly around. I was always amazed at how quick they were and how it never took them long to realize our rocks were a false alarm.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.