July 10, 2012
Summer Wildlife: Bats and Their Impact on the Environment
Bats are mammals whose webbed wings make them the only mammals capable of flight. These unique winged creatures have been depicted in myths and stories as vicious blood sucking mammals, generating needless fears for humankind. As a result, their benefits to our ecosystem seem to be overlooked and their nature to be misunderstood.
Seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Primarily bats prey at night and it is known that a single bat can eat up to 1,000 insects in a single hour. A pregnant female can consume the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night. Breeding season occurs in the spring, having one to three liters in a season. Females are very strategic with the timing of their pregnancy and birth of their young as they aim to coincide with food availability and favorable ecological conditions. Female bats instinctually will delay fertilization for months, storing sperm until the following spring. For such small bodies, bats surprisingly have long life spans. They can live over 20 years (some up to 32 years), making them the world’s longest lived mammal for it’s size. However, bat population growth is limited by the slow birth rate.
Let’s discuss bats and their beneficial impact on our environment. It is very easy to go about our day-to-day lives unaware of how it all keeps turning, yet if a huge staple of our ecosystem diminished, we would know. Bats are pollinators and seed-dispersers of countless trees, plants, and shrubs. Without pollination, gradually ecosystems would die. Plants would cease to provide food for wildlife, the base of our food chain. If our plants die there could be a serious breakdown in our ecosystem. Bats consuming so many insects also lessen our reliance on pesticides in agriculture.
Since 2006, a plague known as “white nose syndrome” has killed nearly 5.5 million bats nationwide in 19 states. The fungal infection originated in a cave in Albany, NY where a vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of bats are known to hibernate. The white fungus grows on the face, wings, and bodies of hibernating bats. Bats who have been afflicted lose fat stored and sometimes behave oddly, flying outside caves during winter months searching for food. This past winter some more points of the syndrome have become clear: some bats survive for several years indicating that the syndrome isn’t deadly.
Bat Emergencies In Your Home:
Since bats are valuable and we need them around, this doesn’t mean we want them in our homes. The new plague affecting bats has made extermination and pesticides illegal to use against them. Therefore, bats are removed by a method known as “exclusion.” This method remains the most effective and best way to control bats in a structure. If you or someone you know needs assistance with Bat Removal and you are in one of our service counties, Westchester, Putnam, Duchess, Rockland, or Fairfield please contact Westchester Wildlife to schedule an inspection today!
914-760-5713 or 800-273-6673