Friday, October 15, 2010

Haunted Horticulture III - BATS!

No Halloween is complete without a terrifying bat, right? But bats should not be feared- they provide many beneficial services. Hollywood has long pushed the image of the vampire bat that sucks human blood. This is not an accurate portrayal of bats at all. In fact, only 3 out of the more than 1,100 species of bats consume blood. Those that do consume blood, lap it up from small cuts in the animal- not by sucking the blood at all. Moreover, the typical victims are livestock that don’t even seem to notice these bats. If you are still worried, relax- these kinds of bats are only found in Central and South America.

The bats that are common in Florida are actually quite beneficial. Many of them eat insects- and we know how much insect control help we need here. One bat can eat thousands of insects in just one night! Furthermore, their droppings, known as guano, are a nitrogen rich organic fertilizer. In the tropics there are bats that help with seed dispersal and pollination too.

What’s even more exciting about bats is that they are the only mammal that can truly fly. It is a common misconception that bats are “flying rats”, when in fact they are believed to be more closely related to monkeys. (Note: although flying monkeys may conjure up frightful images of their own, do not be alarmed.)

Bat populations in Florida are on the decline, mainly from habitat destruction, but our use of pesticides has reduced their food source as well. Click here if you would like to learn more about building your own bat habitat.  Of course, you want to avoid having them roost in your attic. They can cause unpleasant odors and frightful sounds, so be sure to seal all holes and gaps on the exterior of your home. Click here for more information on bat proofing you home.

Some other useful bat links:

Conservation of Bats in Florida:

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