You may recognize bats as they fly around catching insect to eat during the evening. There are seven bat species in Nova Scotia including the little brown Myotis, the tri-coloured bat and the northern Myotis. You also may have noticed a sharp decline in bat numbers in the past few years. This is due to a disease that bats contract called white-nose syndrome.
The fungus causes the bats to wake up during their hibernation period, depleting them of the energy they need to survive. All three species of NS bats were listed as endangered due to the recent steep decline in their numbers.
Bats are important insectivores and eat so many bugs that they can reduce populations of pests. The economic importance of bats to agriculture (as predators of pests) has been estimated at $3.7 billion per year.
Monitoring bat populations and determining the spread of white-nose syndrome is a priority to prevent bats from becoming extinct. If you see a bat, report it here http://www.batconservation.ca or call 1 800 727 3447.
Bats can carry some human diseases, so avoid direct contact with bats and do not attempt to enter bat roosting areas. In addition to the risk of contracting human diseases, you can inadvertently spread the white-nose syndrome to unaffected populations.
There are ways to attract bats to your farm, increasing overall biodiversity and improving pest management:
- Old sheds and barns are used frequently by bats. Consider leaving some of the structures intact as bat habitat. White-nose syndrome has become increasingly common in the ‘natural’ habitat of bats. Having alternative spaces for bats to hibernate or roost on farms could help to increase bat numbers.
- Another way to promote bats is by buying or building a ‘bat box’. Placing your bat box in a sunny area and painting it a dark colour improves the chance of attracting bats because it will keep the internal temperature warmer. Instructions for building a bat box can be found here.