The University of Florida boasts one of the largest bat houses in North America. Bats not only remove pests, but they promote regrowth by dropping seeds.
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Florida Researchers Seek To Replace Harmful Pesticides With Bats

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Florida researchers are working to limit the state’s mosquito population by pushing to install more bat boxes, though researchers say the projected effect on Zika-carrying mosquitoes is limited.

Bats help control populations of infectious, night-flying species that affect humans and animals. They also help limit agricultural pests. They are known to eat 80 different insects, 30 of which are harmful to humans and animals. Thirteen of these insects carry pathogens like heart warms and West Nile virus.

Brian Pope, the director at Lubee Bat Conservatory, said researchers are developing a year-long comprehensive study that will examine the species that bats consume.

Pope said it is difficult to determine the impact bats will have in controlling the virus. Zika is carried by the Aedes species mosquito, which fly during the day, while native bats are active during the night.

Verity Mathis, mammal collection specialist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, agreed with Pope.

“Whether or not bats will be able to specifically help with Zika is a little less likely,” Mathis said. “They’re not going to target those species that we know have been implicated in the Zika virus.”

She encourages the use of bat boxes, however.

The specialist said bats are an alternative to harmful pesticides. Mathis also mentioned that keeping bat houses will decrease the likelihood of bats taking residence in attics, barns or other man-made structures.

Lubee Bat Conservatory builds single-, triple- and four-chamber bat houses. They range from 24 inches high by 14 inches wide to 40 inches high by 7 inches wide. The houses can hold as few as 50 bats or as many as 400.

The University of Florida bat houses have a population of about 300,000 bats and can hold 750,000 bats. Common species include the Evening bat, the Brazilian free-tail bat and the Southeastern Myotis bat.

The Brazilian free-tail is the most common bat in Gainesville. It ranges from 7 to 14 grams in weight, and its wingspan is around 12 to 14 inches.

The oldest free-tail bat was 8 years old, but the species could live longer in captivity, perhaps between 12 to 15 years.

Bats begin flying from roost sites to feed about 15 to 20 minutes before the sun sets. They continue emerging thereafter. During the night, they come and go. Some bats don’t return until early morning, but most stay dormant after midnight.

They eat mosquitoes, moths and other flying insects. Bats can consume up to 1,000 insects in a single night.

About LaResia Golden

LaResia Golden is a reporter at WUFT News who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing laresiagolden11@ufl.edu

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18 comments

  1. what ?? common sense?? is this a satire?? they wont be monsanto bats? or chipped with rfid ? ….wow ….nice…please be true…but turn down the wifi first ,the smartmeters killed them off here relatively quickly several years back ,most just fell to the ground dead

  2. they tried this a hundred years ago in the florida keys. it didn’t work then either. google ‘sugarloaf key bat tower’

    • Ya, they had a different kind of tower too… it’s possible that we’ve come up with a better design that the bats might actually use… and we may be able to have a more intelligent person put it in a place that is friendlier to the bats that the location mentioned here…. just because one person doesn’t know how to hit a golf ball their first try out doesn’t mean we should all quit the game and poison ourselves with pesticides.

    • Even though bats do eat a lot of mosquitoes, they wouldn’t really decrease the species that carry Zika. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are active during the day, and bats mostly feed at night. Bats are not a discriminating pest control – they will eat as many beneficials as pest insects. The Oxitec GE mosquito is the best option for specifically reducing only the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry Zika and other human diseases without harming other insects or the environment.

      • Absolutely right! Unfortunately, the anti-science crazies will do everything in their power to stop the GE mosquitoes.

        • not being pro a Genetically Modified lifeform that we haven’t even had for 10 years being released outright into the ecosystem is not being anti-science genius, it’s being pro science and pro common sense!

  3. This article has a completely misleading title. Also it’s heart worms, not heart warms.

    You’re better than this WUFT.

  4. I’ve had a small bat house for three years on my property. There is a noticeable decrease in mosquitoes. Why not use a natural defense?
    I keep honey bees too. More pesticides less bees. Less bees less pollination of thefoods we all eat.

  5. So, if the bats eat zika-infected mosquitos, would the bats become zika-infected as well?

  6. So, if the bats eat zika-infected mosquitos, would the bats become zika-infected as well?

    • It’s highly unlikely that many bats would even eat a Zika infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, as the mosquitoes are active during the day, and bats feed at night. But if one did, I’m pretty sure the Zika could not be transmitted through the stomach, if bats could even be a carrier of the virus – also unlikely. Even if it were possible for a bat to become infected with Zika, they wouldn’t transmit it back to humans.

  7. So, if the bats eat zika-infected mosquitos, would the bats become zika-infected as well?

  8. Excellent idea to release more bats into the environment as a natural mosquito & spider control. Since Hurricane Wilma during which our neighborhood lost many trees & tree branches as well as our bat population more than 5 years years ago. Bats in general have been plagued & dying from white mouth disease. Have the scientists been able to discover how to stop this disease? The bats are also pollinators as well as natural mosquito & spider predator.

  9. But won’t the insecticides kill the bats as well as the bees? I think we are destroying ourselves!!

  10. Wait a minute… Don’t the Zika mosquitos appear during the day??? The bats come out just before dark!!! Hmmm

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