Bat Houses Could Be the Mosquito Solution You Never Knew You Needed, According to Researchers

For years, the idea that bats could be an effective solution to controlling mosquito populations has been met with skepticism. Previous studies have suggested that bats do not consume enough mosquitoes to make a significant impact, and that these flying mammals prefer other insects over the pesky bloodsuckers.

However, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is challenging these assumptions, providing new evidence that bats may indeed be the mosquito-devouring heroes we’ve been looking for.

Debunking the Myths

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The notion that bats are not effective mosquito predators stems from a few key studies that have shaped our understanding of bat diets. One frequently cited study from the 1960s claimed that bats could consume up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour ¹.

However, this study was conducted in artificial conditions, with bats confined to a room filled with mosquitoes as their only food source. In reality, wild bats have a much more diverse diet and are not limited to just mosquitoes.

Other studies have analyzed bat fecal matter and concluded that mosquitoes make up only a small portion of their diet ², with some species like the big brown bat preferring beetles and moths. These findings have led many to dismiss the idea of using bats for mosquito control, assuming that they simply do not eat enough of these insects to make a difference.

New Evidence Emerges

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison study ³, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, is challenging these long-held assumptions. The research team, led by Amy Wray, collected bat guano (fecal matter) from 22 sites across Wisconsin and used advanced DNA sequencing techniques to analyze the samples for mosquito DNA.

The results were striking. The researchers found that little brown bats consumed mosquitoes at all of the study sites, and mosquitoes were detected in 71.9% of the fecal samples. Big brown bats also consumed mosquitoes, although at a lower rate, with mosquito DNA found in 33.3% of samples and at half of the study sites.

Not only did the study show that bats are eating mosquitoes more frequently than previously thought, but it also revealed that they are consuming a wide variety of mosquito species, including those known to carry West Nile virus. This suggests that bats could potentially play a role in reducing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Implications for Mosquito Control

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While this study alone does not prove that bats can single-handedly control mosquito populations, it does provide a compelling case for re-evaluating their potential as mosquito predators.

As Claudio Gratton, a co-author of the study, notes, “This study is the first step in revisiting important questions regarding the bat’s role as a mosquito control agent, which could have implications for human health.”The findings also highlight the importance of bat conservation.

Many bat populations are in decline due to habitat loss, wind turbines, and diseases like white-nose syndrome. If bats are indeed effective mosquito predators, then their decline could lead to an increase in mosquito populations and a greater risk of mosquito-borne illnesses.

It’s important to note that while bats can be a valuable tool in the fight against mosquitoes, they should be part of a well-rounded mosquito control program. Other effective strategies include eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed, using mosquito repellent plants like citronella, lavender, and marigolds, and employing natural mosquito-repelling scents such as lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oil.

By combining these methods with the installation of bat houses, homeowners can create a multi-faceted approach to reducing mosquito populations in their yards.

Building the Perfect Bat House

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For homeowners looking to take advantage of bats’ potential for mosquito control, installing a bat house can be a great way to attract these beneficial creatures to your property. Here are some tips for building an effective bat house:

  1. Size matters: Bat houses should be at least 24 inches tall and 16 inches wide to provide adequate space and thermal stability. Smaller houses are less effective.
  2. Material choices: Use untreated wood, as chemically treated lumber can be harmful to bats. Avoid using fabric or mesh inside the house.
  3. Roughen up: Bats need a textured surface to cling to, so roughen the inside walls or attach horizontal grooves for gripping.
  4. Tight spaces: Keep chamber spacing between 3/4 to 1 inch wide, as bats prefer snug quarters.
  5. Location, location: Mount bat houses 10-20 feet high in a sunny spot that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily, preferably facing east or south. Avoid placing houses near bright lights.
  6. Consider water: Most bat colonies choose roosts within 1/4 mile of water sources like streams, rivers, or lakes.
  7. Think multiples: Bats are more likely to move into an area with several houses grouped together, so consider installing 3 or more.

With a well-constructed and properly placed bat house, you can expect to start seeing residents within a few weeks to a year. Be patient, as it may take some time for bats to discover their new accommodations.

The Bottom Line

The University of Wisconsin-Madison study provides exciting new evidence that bats may be more significant mosquito predators than previously thought. While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between bats and mosquitoes, this study challenges the notion that bats are ineffective mosquito control agents.

As we continue to search for ways to combat pesky mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, it’s important to keep an open mind about the role that bats could play.

By supporting bat conservation efforts, building bat-friendly habitats, and further exploring their potential as mosquito devourers, we may just find that these fascinating creatures are the unlikely heroes we’ve been looking for in the fight against mosquitoes.

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Sources

  1. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0003347260900221
  2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3795000/
  3. news.wisc.edu/study-bolsters-bats-reputation-as-mosquito-devourers/
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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.