You may have noticed the bat house located in the field on the Armistead Rd. side of McCord Park. This structure, and the Little Library in the park, were constructed as part of James Ford’s Eagle Scout Project for Betton Hills in 2016. Guess what . . . it has bats!
I’m very happy to report that the bat house is now the summer home for a crowd of Brazilian Free-tail bats. These bats are called “free-tailed” because their tail extends beyond the edge of the tail membrane.
Bats in the Evening, Bats in the Morning
On a recent evening right at dusk, Turtle Bob Walker and I stood by one of the sculptures and observed around 160 bats exiting the bat house for their bug feast. Each bat can eat up to several thousand insects a night, including mosquitoes. Having a few hundred bats in the bat houses means a significant control of insects in the park area and surrounding neighborhood. The bat house (actually 2 bat houses back to back) has room for 400 bats, so our friendly exterminators have room to grow.
I went back the next morning just before dawn to see the bats returning. That’s quite an impressive sight with the winged bug-eating machines circling and then popping into and out of the house. I don’t know what that in and out is all about, but it was a common behavior; puzzling. Our best guess is that the bat residents are bachelors rather than females/babies (which would make the house a nursery colony). Maybe that’s why they have trouble getting settled on their return from a night on the town! Still, the whole show only lasts about five minutes as everyone gets home and bedded down to sleep through the day.
If you get a chance, check out these helpful bats from a distance at dawn or dusk.