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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Beauty of Bats

I love being outside when the weather is nice.  I love the fresh air, the sun on my back, the cool breeze gently undulating through the oak trees.  I love all of that and more about being outside.  Yet, I hate mosquitoes.  I absolutely loathe them.  If there was a way I could de-create the mosquito permanently, I would.   With all my work in the field of de-creating things (which really amounts to nothing), I have not yet figured out a way to get eradicate mosquitoes.  There is the option of having my yard sprayed with noxious chemicals that in theory will either kill the mosquitoes or keep them at bay.  However, with our family moving towards as much of an organic lifestyle as possible, those chemicals being sprayed in my yard doesn't sound enticing.   I could theoretically wear a bee-keepers suit whenever I venture outside, but that would get in the way of the sun on my back.  So for now, I use our home-made organic bug spray and deal with the bugs.  There is one more option that could be the best one around for our yard, bats.  We have one or two resident bats currently circling our house every evening in search of mosquitoes and other insects that fly.  Last night, with the sun sinking beyond the horizon, I remained outside and watched the bats flit around as I threw a tennis ball to my dog Aspen.  If you have never watched a bat fly around eating insects, it is an amazing sight to behold.  

The flight path of a bat is nothing graceful like an eagle soaring through the sky, riding thermals with wings spread wide.  No, a bat's flight path is more akin to an novice driver learning how to drive a manual transmission combined with a fighter pilot engaged in a aerial dogfight.  Steady for a few feet, then a quick jerk to the right, left, right, dive, capture, and ascend again.   Last night I watched our resident bats for about half hour as the sky grew darker and darker.   This one little guy (they are quite small), circled over and over an over again, eating his quota of mosquitoes to make me happy.  His little body never rested, just performed its aerial acrobats for me to watch in awe.  A bat's flight path becomes all the more amazing when you consider that everything is performed not with sight, but through echo location; essentially sonar to figure out where a bat's surroundings are.  For a bat to discern its surroundings, and especially be able to follow a mosquito with sonar and then actually catch it, is mind boggling to me.  There were times last night when the bat came within perhaps five feet of my head, eating its dinner.  I just watched and watched, timing the throwing of the tennis ball to when the bat was not in the vicinity of where I would be throwing it.  Seeing the efficiency with which the bat was eating, I can't wait to build myself a bat house.  

Yes, even before last night, I started researching how to build a bat house for our yard.  Seeing as a bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in a single night, bats will become my new best friend.  I don't want thousands of bats, that might be considered going over board, but around 20 would probably be a good number.  Think about it, if I had 20 bats, that would mean around 20,000 mosquitoes would be devoured every night leaving that many fewer to bother me and my family.  Once I started reading about bat houses and how to build them, I discovered a few interesting things.  First, it is recommended that you don't put a bat house on a tree, but rather high up on a pole or attached to a house.  This is due to the fact that bats need a very warm environment in which to raise their young and on a tree in the shade will do no good.  Second, it needs to be painted a dark color so that it gets warm inside.  The version I am embarking on building is about 2 feet by 3 feet and should be a nice place for them to call home.  I will even put a welcome mat on my roof for them if it means that more will come and eat my mosquitoes for me.  In fact, if I get ambitious enough, I just might build it tonight.  But for today, as my nocturnal bats go to bed for the day, I wish them a good sleep and a hearty appetite for their dinner of more mosquitoes tonight.  

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