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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

North Texas bats need landlords...now



Mexican Freetail bat
They’re cute little creatures that weigh about half-an-ounce, but eat lots and lots of mosquitoes – and they’ll soon be returning from Central America looking for homes. The bats in the Denton area are mostly Mexican freetail Bats (like those in the Congress Ave. Bridge in Austin). They cleanse the nights of tons of pesky flying insects, and avoid humans as much as possible.
An average bat will eat up to 5000 mosquitoes and other flying pests every night. In simpler terms, that’s like a 60 lb. child eating 126 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches a day. A colony of bats is a safe and cheap replacement for a lot of pesticide spraying! It can also be a tourist magnet.
Since bats can hear four times better than a typical dog, they actually hear the mosquitoes’ wings. They also communicate among themselves and avoid obstacles with “echo-location”, which is sort of like Doppler radar. One of the things they avoid fervently is being tangled in your hair - that's just a silly myth that persists to this day.

Bats also pollinate many crops. If your day includes soap, shampoo, cosmetics, coffee, toothpaste, margarine, paper, ink, rope, lumber, beer, candles, air fresheners, rubber, vegetables, spices, fruits, or chocolates you are not simply helped by bats – you are dependant on bats.

Less than half of 1% of bats have rabies. They are not carriers of rabies! If bitten, they’ll come down with it; just like any other mammal. And they'll probably die in less than a day. Actually, you have a much better chance of getting rabies from a pet dog or cat.

Injuring, killing, or confining a bat is illegal in Texas. Such acts (usually based on ignorance and superstition) need to be reported. Good bird stores often sell different sizes of bat houses, which should be mounted at least 12 ft. high. Providing housing for a free-flying bat makes you a “sanctuary”, and is perfectly legal. Make sure the house’s design is approved by a non-profit, rehabilitation group, since there are some dangerous ones on the market.  Now, before they come back to the north Texas area looking for a home, is the ideal time to put up a bat house.



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