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Bat-ter Up – Bat Roost

By SET and WAIT

November 4, 2015

Bat roost
Bat roost
Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw

The day had finally arrived when the new would replace the old. After weeks of anticipation, permission was finally granted to erect an echo structure on campus. This structure would replace the old single unit and provide additional carrying capacity. But first, a ground socket was set into concrete, then, the three compartmented housing was mounted on a telescoping pole, that could be raised to a height of 16 feet. The location needed open space on all sides, as well as beneath to allow easy access. It should face east or southeast to catch the morning sun as well as have some wind and shade protection from the west.

NIEHS Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT) volunteers assembled near the Memorial Garden to raise what will surely become a memorable roost for local bats. It may take a little time for the bats to discover this new roost but look for the Big Brown, Red, and even Eastern Pipistrelle to show up. Don’t expect to see many Ash Bats, for they’re becoming harder and harder to find due to habitat disappearance.

Why is a project like this one important?

Habitats and roosting sites that bats would use are being disturbed or lost to human activity. In Asia, fruit bats are harvested for food or as a component of medicines. Myths and fears of vampires have perpetuated mass kills. Diseases have also affected bat populations. It’s reported that over 5.7 million bats have been killed by White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal wildlife disease that continues its spread across North America. WNS attacks hibernating bats, causing mortality rates that often approach 100 percent.

Since bats usually produce one pup per year, it takes many generations for a population to rebound. Having structures that protect the nursing mothers increases the probably that the young survive.

What does maintaining bats mean to us?

Bats serve an important place in the environment by providing pest control for farmers and even in our own backyard. The Bathouse.com website states that “bats have been known to consume as many as 1200 mosquitoes in an hour and up to about half of their body weight.” Bats are also crucial pollinators in areas where banana, peaches, cashews and avocados are being grown. In tropical regions, fruit bats are great seed dispersers (outperforming birds) and have a very positive effect on maintaining the rain forest. As with many flora and fauna, the loss of their role would significantly change the complexion of our environment.

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