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Are Bat Houses the Solution to Controlling the Spread of Zika?

Bats are more effective than even the most potent pesticide and could be used to naturally fight against the Zika virus.

Where I live in New York, aid against mosquitos is coming from an unlikely source: bats. This isn’t only because mosquitos are annoying–we now know these pests are spreading the Zika virus, along with West Nile, and who knows what additional blood-borne diseases may come to light in the future. But dousing large areas with pesticides is potentially damaging to humans and plant life, so the Long Island town of North Hempstead is turning to their local bat friends to help control the mosquitos.  By building bat houses that offer safety and shelter, Long Island residents are encouraging growth in bat populations while naturally limiting the spread of diseases.

Bats have gotten a bad rep, but of the nine species based in New York State, none of those are blood drinkers. Less than half of one percent of them have rabies and they are shy animals who avoid contact with humans whenever possible. Bats are more effective than even the most potent pesticide—a single bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquitos per hour, and many species hunt for 6-8 hours per day. North Hempstead has been building bat houses since 2007, but with West Nile and now Zika, they have redoubled their efforts recently.

Make Your Own Bat House

Learn about the bats of your region by doing some research. If bats live in your area, you can support your bat population by building or buying a simple bat house or bat box to offer shelter to these helpful creatures. This kit or this pre-built model will come in handy if you want something effortless. A bat house is simply a wooden box with an entrance mounted somewhere high up, away from predators. Bats like the dark, so you’ll want to stain both the inside and outside of the box. They like heat as well, so make sure your box is in direct sunlight for at least 8 hours of the day. Mounting on a building or a high pole is ideal, since bats tend to avoid trees (too many predators hang out in trees, there’s too much shade, and bent branches disrupt the bat’s flight patterns upon exiting). Make sure there is a nearby water source. You can attract bats to your property with bat scent.

An Outdoor Bat is a Happy Bat

Bats can get hurt or even killed if they end up indoors. Keep them from accidentally getting into your house by ensuring that window screens are not ripped or torn (some bats can fit through even a tiny tear in a screen) and that doors stay closed when not in use.

If a bat does get inside your house, don’t panic. Remember that they are gentle creatures that are afraid of humans.  Place a soft cloth in a shoebox and gently scoop the bat into the box (you might want to wear an oven mitt to avoid touching the bat with your bare hand—this protects you from bat germs and the bat from your germs as well). The bat will cling to the cloth and you can place then place it into the bat house (or at the base of the bat house if it is hung too high to reach) and the bat will crawl off and up into the house (bats can’t take flight directly from the ground but they are good climbers).

If you think your bat population is growing too rapidly, you can get in touch with the humane society in your area and they can help relocate some of the bats. You can also reach out to friends or family who may be dealing with mosquito issues and spread some bat love their direction!

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on July 8th, 2016

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