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Bats as Pollinators

By Julia Babb for Pollinator Project Rogue Valley

We hear a good deal about bees, butterflies and hummingbirds as pollinators. But I have also heard about bats being pollinators, so I wondered if any of our Oregon bats were nectar eaters and could be considered “Pollineighbors”. An hour on the internet finally yielded an excellent list of 15 bats common (but endangered) in Oregon. They are all insect eaters, though--not nectar eating pollinators. Huh! Our bats couldn’t care less about nectar! Or flowers...or fruit…hmmmm.

But that doesn’t mean that our dear Oregon bats aren’t beneficial for our gardens and yards. These small but mighty little mammals [the only mammal capable of True Flight--take that “flying” squirrels! Ha!] eat tons of pests--mosquitos, beetles, flies--so we can grow our lovely flowers and vegetables, and enjoy being out in our yards. Their droppings, aka ‘bat guano’, are rich with nutrients for the soil, too.

Here’s the thing, though. Bats like to hang out in warm, dark places. Since they are so small, they tend to not retain body heat easily, so they roost with anywhere from a few to hundreds of their relatives. In the wild, roosting sites are hollow trees, caves and cliffs, but in our neighborhoods, all too commonly, bats roost in the warm attics of our cozy homes. There of course, they are more protected from predators, too. (Unless they somehow get into our living rooms, and we ourselves go after them with tennis rackets. Oh dear...!)

There is a simple solution, though--bat houses! By providing cozy habitat for these small neighbors, we can politely evict them from our attics and eaves, keep the pest population at bay, and get a free supply of guano fertilizer in the bargain! Not to mention the added benefit of giving Oregon bats a fighting chance for survival, since habitat loss is a leading cause of their population declines.

Bat Conservation International recommends that “All bat houses should be mounted at least 10 feet above ground, and 12 to 20 feet is better. Choose a sunny location on the East or South facing side of your house.” [...or on the trunk of a tall tree in your yard.] “Bat houses work best with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight (if only partial day sun is available, morning sun is preferable)”. I would only add that after installation, it’s best not to bother the bats during the daytime. They need their beauty rest...

“BCI” also has plans for building your own bat house on its website, but hey, PPRV carries a supply of ready-made bat houses, hand-built by Tim Short! So why not drop by the office in Phoenix and pick one up for your bat buddies! (Please call ahead to make sure we are there when you want to come by - 458-214-0508.) And hurry, it’s almost time to hibernate!

[If you are still curious about which bats do pollinate, here’s an excellent article on the National Wildlife Federation’s website.]

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