Bats are portrayed as spooky creatures at Halloween, but they actually have really important jobs. Some bats are pollinators, some control insect populations, and some help disperse seeds. There are over 1,300 species of bats, ten species live in Maryland. Bats are the only mammal to fly, they are very social, and they live in colonies. The majority of Mother bats give birth to one baby, called a pup, who is breastfed in infancy. Like cats, bats are very clean animals; they spend time in the colony grooming themselves and each other. Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats as pollinators. Without bats, we could say goodbye to avocados, mangoes, and bananas. Bats can eat their body weight in insects in one night.
The common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat and the white-winged vampire bat are the only species of Vampire Bats and they live in South America.
Only 1% of bats are infected with rabies, according to the Center for Disease Control. Maryland DNR recommends placing a bowl over a bat and sliding a piece of cardboard under the bowl to safely remove a single bat from the interior of your home. That being said, nobody wants bats in their attic. Bats and mice are not generally on the radar of home inspectors, so my daughter and son-in-law got a big surprise when they bought their first home and discovered bats in their attic. Bats seem like wonderful creatures in theory, but the fear of histoplasmosis from bat guano is no joke.
After a great deal of research into the difficulties of getting rid of bats, my daughter hired a professional. The removal included the installation of one-way doors and the sealing up of tiny entryways. After a week, it was determined that the bats had all moved on and the removal of bat guano began. Wearing HazMat suits, protective gloves, glasses, and respirators, the exterminators spent several days cleaning. My daughter no longer has “bats in her belfry.
We complain that the humidity and the mosquito population seem to get worse and worse every summer here on the Eastern Shore. Next summer, I hope to reduce the mosquitoes while helping the bats by installing a bat house and by planting more pollinator-friendly plants in my garden.
Happy Bat Appreciation Month!
Kate Emery General is a retired chef/restaurant owner that was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Kate loves her grandchildren, knitting, and watercolor painting. Kate and her husband, Matt, are longtime residents of Cambridge’s West End, where they enjoy swimming and bicycling.