Few mammals have been as misunderstood as bats. They are extremely beneficial to our environment and economy, yet they instill fear and horror. The theory is that bats appeared on Earth about the same time as dinosaurs, about 65 to 100 million years ago
. There are around 1,300 bat species worldwide. They account for about one in every five mammals living on the planet, yet they are mostly invisible to us.
Bats live on almost every continent, but there are only about 15 species living in Washington state. All of them are insectivores. Bats can eat
up to 600 to 1,000 flying insects, such as mosquitoes, beetles, and stink bugs, in just one hour. They also help farmers by eating tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles, and earworms from our crops.
In the rainforest, bats pollinate the flowers of countless trees important to our continuing existence. And in Africa, the baobab is an important ecosystem that depends almost exclusively on bats for pollination. Without bats, the baobab ecosystem would collapse. Bats are also key to maintaining pollination for many of the foods we love: bananas, mangoes, cashews, dates, avocados, and much more. All in all, the U.S. pollination of agricultural crops by bats is valued at $10 billion and $3.7 billion in pest control services per year, according to biological diversity.org
Bats are all around us in Spokane and every other city in the nation. Because they are nocturnal, we may not notice them. And it’s hard to notice them when they decide to roost in your chimney or attic—or behind shutters. While we love the good bats do, they pose health risks when roosting in our homes.
Bats don’t have the physical capability to create an entrance into our homes, but they do take advantage of the weak spots that exist. Once within our walls, the guano they produce is the real danger as it carries parasites and can cause disease.
Signs of bats include an ammonia smell of their urine, smudge marks along areas where they fly in and out, and squeaking noises within the walls. Bats are federally protected and cannot be harmed. In addition, their young, born in spring, are helpless until fall. So if you have bats in your attic, fall is when you can get rid of them. Critter Control will install a one-way door or bat valve that lets the bats fly out but does not let them return once the bats have left. The bat valve is removed, and the entryway is sealed.