by Jason Johnson
Given my pure disdain for rodents, it stands to reason that I would not warmly welcome a bat onto my property. Up until a few weeks ago, I had not seen a bat in the wilderness before. When I decided to get rid of the bat, I realised that I know absolutely nothing about bats or even where I would start.
Imagine my surprise when I learnt that bats are not really vampires and that I had thrown a year’s supply of garlic into my ceiling for no reason at all. After being laughed at by my roommates for a few days, I decided to some real research on these critters and came up with some pretty cool information. This is what I dug up:
Interesting facts about bats
While bats aren’t bloodsucking vampires as I initially thought they were, there are varieties of bats that do feed solely on blood – much like the undead. Like mosquitoes, they target warm blooded animals such as livestock and cattle and then feast on their blood as their main source of nourishment.
Aside from the vampire bat, there are also about 1200 other species of bats, including a bat the size of a thumbnail called the bumble bee bat.
Bats are the only mammal alive today that can fly. There are a few other mammals that glide using folds of skin, but only bats have wings and use them to fly. Their skin-like wings grow out the sides of their bodies and are attached to one of their fingers. These wings, flimsy as they seem, have turned bats into extremely strong flyers. They are able to stay in flight for up to 3000 km in one go, where certain bats are able to fly up to approximately 100 kilometers per hour.
Even though bats are blind, they are still able to locate food in complete darkness. They do this by using echolocation. They send out sound waves using their mouths. The sound bounces of an object and echoes back to the bat. They are then able to identify the object by the sound of the echo.
The good, the bat and of course, the ugly
While there are bats that live of fruit and blood as mentioned above, a bat’s diet primarily consists of various insects. Like spiders and snakes, bats are seen as a natural form of pesticide. They play an important role in keeping pest infestations at bay in their environments. I actually contemplated keeping a bat as a pet once I learned that a single bat is able to eat up to a thousand mosquitoes in the time span of only an hour! That would mean that I might be able to sleep with my windows open during summer…
There are downsides to having bats on your premises though. Bats are carriers of the Rabies virus. This is not good news as some bats are known to bite. Furthermore, bat faeces (guano) is extremely toxic. Guano releases large amounts of ammonia that is poisonous to humans when inhaled.
If you have a garden, you are in luck. Guano is one of the best fertilisers in the world. So much so that guano was the most exported natural resource from Texas for a few years even beating total oil exports.
If you are not the type to keep a bat as a pet, there are a few simple things that you can do to keep them at bay:
- Try your best to make sure your property is pest-free. Bats will keep returning if they have a ready supply of insects to feast upon.
- Change all of your outside light bulbs to yellow lights as these discourage pests like moths and mosquitoes. You may consider getting Rentokil in to come to do a perimeter spray of your premises. This will minimise any insect infestation.
- Try and locate any entry points into your roof or attic. It’s normally a small hole with an oily residue surrounding the edges. Bats have oily skin and this will rub off on the edges as they enter and exit. Once you have located the entry points, be sure to seal them all off. Chicken mesh or caulking agents can be used to seal cracks, holes and gaps in ceilings and walls.
- Be careful when dealing with bats. It is important to note that it is illegal to poison a bat and transgressions may result in six months imprisonment or a R40,000 fine. Rather call in professional help instead of taking matters into your own hands. Unfortunately, Rentokil does not offer bat control services, but you can call them to refer you to someone who can.
My fellow blogger, Nicole, was telling me how she stayed over at a guest house in the middle of nowhere and witnessed bat after bat emerging from the chalet roof, into the dark night. Some even flew indoors and she had to try and catch them with tupperware while they flew about in a manic state. I would also be scared if Nicole were after me. Just kidding, Nicole!
I know I may have romanticised the idea of luring bats to your premises and having them stay their permanently, but remember that these are still wild animals. They can be unpredictable and at times, very dangerous. Fascinating as they are, it is best to keep your distance and have them removed professionally.