(AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?)
Common to Long Island from March through Halloween are the little brown bats and the big brown bats (only a half inch distinguishes the two). Numbers on mosquito munching vary, but 600 mosquitoes an hour was average, in addition to other nighttime insects. ”They’re in the air a lot, that’s why they eat so much, for energy,” said Ritchie Lettis, a bat fancier and co-owner of Wild Bird Center, a store in Stony Brook. Bats’ fluttery, seemingly erratic flight pattern is actually a clever adaptation allowing them to match an insect’s flight. These tiny nocturnal mammals can catch a bug in the outstretched skin of their wings, lift their legs to their mouth, shove the bug in and continuing flying. Now THAT’s a bug zapper.
Surprisingly, a bat house is just an empty rectangular wooden box with an opening at the bottom. The bats roost inside (yes, hanging upside down), squeezing in tight with others for warmth. Giordano’s carries a small model that when mounted, could house a dozen bats.
Then there is the matter of placement. Bat houses should be mounted facing south, 12 to 15 feet above the ground on a pole or under the eaves of a house. The latter is out of the question for most people who would prefer to admire nature from afar: Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom or Animal Planet programming. While bats in one’s backyard may reflect a balanced ecosystem, if bats got into most houses, the residents would probably (and justifiably) run screaming into the night appearing to have bats in their belfry.
So then there is tree mounting. Unlike birds that can fly off their perches, bats have weak legs and upon leaving the house drop a few feet before flying, requiring unobstructed swooping room below.
The dropping and swooping may sound problematic, but since this activity takes place at night, you can sleep well knowing your personal bug zappers are working on your behalf to rid your yard of those pesky mosquitos.
Thanks to Paul Licata for the above information as published in the NY Times.