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United States Earth Science

Insect-Devouring Bats Now Welcomed in New York (nytimes.com) 115

Slashdot reader HughPickens.com shares an article from the New York Times: The town of North Hempstead on Long Island has approved the construction of bat houses in several parks to attract more bats to the area because despite their less-than-desirable reputation, bats possess a remarkable ability to control insects, especially disease-carrying mosquitoes. "Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour," says Judi Bosworth. "That's extraordinary. A pesticide couldn't do that." As mosquito season heats up, bringing with it the threat of the West Nile and Zika viruses, the bats make very welcome neighbors.

[T]he Asian tiger mosquito is found on Long Island and is capable of transmitting Zika in a laboratory setting, and as of October, 490 cases of West Nile and 37 deaths resulting from it have been recorded in New York since 2000. "If you minimize the mosquito population you minimize the possible incidence of the Zika virus," says Larry Schultz. "If you reduce the mosquito population, you make parks more accessible."

"Bats really have been very maligned," says Bosworth -- noting they don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair.
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Insect-Devouring Bats Now Welcomed in New York

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  • Don't like bats? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @02:39PM (#52484319) Journal

    Why people don't like bats is bejond me.
    They are cute, it looks nice when they fly around and they harm no one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EmeraldBot ( 3513925 )

      Why people don't like bats is bejond me. They are cute, it looks nice when they fly around and they harm no one.

      They can spread rabies through their bites, and although they rarely attack people, they sometimes do if they feel threatened (as in old buildings). I think it's fantastic that people are finally starting to realize that nature provides its own balancing mechanisms, but I think that if the bat population becomes large enough, rabies vaccines might be a good idea.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Any rodent population can get rabies and they often transmit them to your animals (cats/dogs) This is why rabies vaccines are so common for pets. And that in turn reduces the risk of people needing the vaccine unless they've been bitten by an animal that might have had rabies if the animal isn't captured and the rabies confirmed/denied.

        Surprised more people don't know about that.

      • Just to reiterate this, here are the U.S. rabies cases in people from 2003-2013 [cdc.gov]. Although human rabies has nearly been eliminated in the U.S., you can see that more than half the cases were transmitted by bats, more than 2/3 if you only look at cases where the exposure happened within the U.S.

        I think bats are much-maligned too, but rabies [wikipedia.org] is something you just do not screw around with (nearly 100% fatality rate - even our best treatment only has a 8% success rate).
      • What has people spooked about bats and rabies is while you definitely know if you in danger from a dog bite, bat bites are often not easy to detect.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2016 @02:48PM (#52484389)

      Why people don't like bats is bejond me.

      Leathery. Hardly any meat on them. Get bits stuck between your teeth. Honestly don't think I've ever met anyone who likes them who's tried them.

      • Leathery. Hardly any meat on them. Get bits stuck between your teeth. Honestly don't think I've ever met anyone who likes them who's tried them.

        If a black chicken flies into your apartment when you're poor and unable feed your family, you're going to pass up a free meal?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's all Batman's fault. He stole their image, and then goes around beating people up at night.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @03:02PM (#52484475)

      Why people don't like bats is bejond me.

      This is New York we're talking about. They prefer spiders, not bats.

    • #batlivesmatter
    • Mostly irrational fear but rabies can be a valid concern.

      I don't really mind them, but my most recent encounter was one on my back porch. I opened the door one night and it startled me as it flew away very quickly. I wouldn't mind a bat-house in the back yard that kept them at arms length but I am glad they don't make a habit of roosting right by my back door.

      And most people who I told about it cautioned me to check for bites because it's possible it bit me and I just didn't feel it. It didn't bite me

    • Re:Don't like bats? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Feral Nerd ( 3929873 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @05:25PM (#52485149)

      Why people don't like bats is bejond me. They are cute, it looks nice when they fly around and they harm no one.

      I have never understood that either. I remember reading an article in a science magazine years and years ago about bats. The article was about a biologist who studied the bats and the guy told this story about how he'd been talking to a farmer about being allowed to look for bat roosts on his land. The farmer just grinned and replied that if the biologist found any he should be sure to tell him so he could rot them out. Instead of blowing his stack this guy just asked the farmer if potato Beatles were a problem for him? ...to which the farmer replied that, yes, the were. The biologist then went on to give him a short lecture on bats and do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how many potato beetles the average bat colony the size of the ones he had been finding in the region consumed in one night which turned out to be something like a metric ton of bugs. When the guy came back a while later to check on the bats he found that the farmer had put up a bunch no-trespassing signs around the bat roost. I read somewhere that the free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave in Texas eat 250 tons, thats TONS of bugs in a single night!! ...but that's a pretty big colony. Nevertheless, if I was a farmer I'd build bat roost in my fields and get advice from biologists about how best to persuade the critters to move in.

      • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

        Not to mention the use of guano as a fertilizer that has fungicidal properties.

        Although I expect it can be quite a pain if the population grows too large as it is with pigeons. Then again, bats don't eat our waste so the insect population should regulate that in places like city parks.

    • by aevan ( 903814 )
      Corpses in the walls, and histoplasma from guano in attics.

      I've no issue with bats being bats in the wild, but when they decide they want to winter in your attic and it takes three visits by removal companies (coupled with a 'no, they have young, we have to wait until they are grown' - while hearing them in the walls and finding some hanging off curtains)... you tend to not like them in a more intimate environment =P
    • The Bat
      By Frank Jacobs

      Bats are creepy; bats are scary;
      Bats do not seem sanitary;
      Bats in dismal caves keep cozy;
      Bats remind us of Lugosi;
      Bats have webby wings that fold up;
      Bats from ceilings hang down rolled up;
      Bats when flying undismayed are;
      Bats are careful; bats use radar;
      Bats at nighttime at their best are;
      Bats by Batman unimpressed are!

      I first read this poem in an ancient (c1972) Mad Magazine anthology, and have loved it ever since. At last! An opportunity to share it!
    • As several people pointed out, bats are one of the most common vectors of rabies in the US. And sadly, you do not have to be bitten by a bat to get rabies. There is evidence that just being in the same room with a rabid bat can lead to exposure, probably from aerosolized saliva. Three men (out of the 19 total) who died of rabies over the last ten years had no reported history of contact with bats at all, but had bat-associated rabies viruses. It isn't probable that you will get rabies just being outdoor

      • The problem with 'rabies' is that is actually a name for three or four completely unrelated viruses (causing similar symptoms) and the fact that is relatively rare and hence often diagnosed to late.

        If it is diagnosed straight away the likelihood to survive due to passive vaccines is very high. But after three days or so it is to late.

        There is even a Dr. House sequel about it, facepalm. After 5 seconds it was clear to me the girl had rabies. Luckily we have only a death every few decades in Germany. The last

        • Interesting that it is probably spread via the air, too. But that would affect all speciem not only bats.

          Only, as bats fly around a room at night over your bed (which happens not infrequently in old houses with bats in the attic, I will personally attest) they emit sonar pulses and if they are rabid, tend to be sloppy. So they emit aerosolized rabies-laden bat-sputum too. Then you can inhale it, or get it on a cut in your skin, or open your eyes and get droplets in your eye, etc. A rabid fox out in open

    • I like bats, but having seen their faces up close, I don't think I can support your claim of "cute".

      That said, bat populations are in serious need of help what with White Nose killing them left and right. I hope this helps their numbers by giving them smaller and cleaner "caves" to sleep in.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bats "don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair." They also don't eat 1,000 mosquitoes an hour [bu.edu] (PDF).

    • Bats "don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair." They also don't eat 1,000 mosquitoes an hour [bu.edu] (PDF).

      To be fair pesticides can't even eat bugs.

      • While I am not sure where you are they are getting the data, I do know
        ( from asking my old town of Fort Lee NJ to build 10 or 20 bat homes)
        they can eat UPTO 1 ounce of mosquitos per night.

        Ever want get laughed out of town hall, come up with an idea that helps
        human kind. I always felt that if I succeeded the spread would have
        slowed down ( I don't know how to kill mosquitoes in daylight hours )
        but maybe someone would have figured out something

    • Bats really can swoop down and get tangled in your hair... you may ask my sister. Although that was a bat that got into the attic not one flying around outside the story is there because it can and does happen.

    • Bats "don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair."

      Bats are great fliers, and they seem to love getting really close to your head. Living in an area where bats would come out on summer night to catch flying bugs... they love to get real close to people and objects. I don't see any reason why they would not sometimes crash into swinging hair. It seems more like a statistical thing... "bats USUALLY don't get tangled in hair".

      Also, if there were bugs in your hair, then I suspect the bats would go there to get them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Relocate the Senate to New York...

  • The last link is crap, once again making me wonder what EditorDavid does at Slashdot, as it sure isn't editing.
  • robins during the day....
  • I live in Silicon Valley. Most people say you have to go to San Francisco to see an interesting night life. Not true. We got bats, possums and skunks that come out to play at night. Nothing like leaving work and finding a family of skunks crossing your path.
  • by pem ( 1013437 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @02:59PM (#52484453)
    According to mosquito.org [mosquito.org]:

    Recently the public has shown increased interest in the value of insectivorous species of bats in controlling mosquitoes. Although untested lately, this is not a new idea. During the 1920's several bat towers were constructed near San Antonio, Texas, in order to help control malarial mosquitoes. Mosquito populations were not affected and the project was discontinued. Bats in temperate areas of the world are almost exclusively insectivorous. Food items identified in their diet are primarily beetles, wasps, and moths. Mosquitoes have comprised less than 1% of gut contents of wild caught bats in all studies to date. Bats tend to be opportunistic feeders. They do not appear to specialize on particular types of insects, but will feed on whatever food source presents itself. Large, concentrated populations of mosquitoes could provide adequate nutrition in the absence of alternative food. However, a moth provides much more nutritional value per capture than a mosquito.

    They talk about other opinions, but most of those seem to be either anecdotal or from data taken in laboratories.

    I also read that, not only do bats (and purple martins) not eat that many mosquitoes, they also eat other insects that would themselves eat mosquitoes, such as dragonflies.

    • by hankwang ( 413283 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @04:50PM (#52484947) Homepage

      "not only do bats (and purple martins) not eat that many mosquitoes, they also eat other insects that would themselves eat mosquitoes, such as dragonflies."

      Dragonflies hunt by sight, during daytime. Bats and mosquitoes are active at dusk and night, so this doesn't sound very likely as far as bats are concerned.

      • by pem ( 1013437 )
        You're probably right about the bats not getting too many dragonflies.

        I think the article I read was conflating bats and purple martins as "stupid things people do thinking they will reduce mosquitoes."

        In any case, I have found a source that claims that dragonflies do eat mosquitoes [caryinstitute.org] (adult dragonflies eat adult mosquitoes and larval dragonflies eat larval mosquitoes). I can easily believe this -- at least around here, they are both active in the dusk and morning.

        Also a source that claims that purple [pinellascounty.org]

  • Bats are one of the more common vectors for rabies transmission. Would that be a concern for this species as well?

    • by legRoom ( 4450027 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @04:39PM (#52484889)

      According to the National Geographic link at the end of the summary, only 5% of bats are infected. So there's really nothing to worry about: in a typical large colony with many thousands of individuals, only thousands of them carry rabies. /s

      Seriously though - I am not anti-bat, or anti-wildlife in general, but it's pretty obvious that some of the more rabid Greens are willing to say whatever it takes to portray all wild animals as good neighbours, no matter how dangerous their deception is to fellow humans. (Another disturbing example of this being the way that many people insist that large predators - lions, bears, wolves, etc. - never attack humans, except by accident, or in defence of their young - despite thousands of years of evidence to the contrary.)

      There are often (although certainly not always) good reasons that our ancestors wiped out the local populations of various pests and predators. A rational society should thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons of reintroducing them into populated areas, rather than committing the game management equivalent of alternative medicine's "natural = good" fallacy.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Good luck at convincing all the dog owners around the place that their pets should die too :)
        Seriously kids, the chances of coming in contact with a rabid bat are vanishingly small even compared with the very low risk of coming in contact with a rabid dog or rattlesnake.
        • Domestic cats are the main vector for toxoplasmosis, a fairly nasty disease itsself. Cats have the 'cute immunity' factor: People really love cute fluffy cats, and they aren't going to let a little thing like a disease that can potentially cause blindness and death get in the way of that.

          There was a great outcry here in the UK over proposals to cull introduced hedgehogs from the Hebrides, as they were breeding in great numbers by eating the eggs of endangered birds. So great was the outcry about killing 'cu

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            Check out thwarted efforts to cull feral horses for another good example of the "cuddly" factor at work even in places where animal welfare groups are very happy with the idea of wiping out the feral animals.
        • It's a matter of numbers. If 5% of pet dogs went rabid, owning dogs would be outlawed.

          There are two reason [webmd.com] that rabies isn't a big problem with dogs (in the developed world, at least):

          1) Any dog that is discovered to be infected is generally killed immediately, before it can spread the disease further.
          2) Vaccinations are mandatory and reasonably effective.

          Good luck at convincing all the dog owners around the place that their pets should die too :)

          Good luck vaccinating hundreds of thousands of wild bats.

  • Yeaaah. Batman will save you all. From mosquitos.

  • "Bats really have been very maligned," says Bosworth -- noting they don't really swoop down on your head "> and get tangled in your hair. [slashdot.org]

    That's some mighty fine editing work there, /.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No Mosquito in Lompoc California because we love the bats.

    And for the record ALL cases of Rabies here are from Raccoons not bats.

  • We are so scared of Zika, that we are willing to get rabies over it. Have you heard how rabies kills? Do you know what rabies is like?

    How about controlling there Aedes Aegypti mosquito instead? How about spending some money on making a vaccine? How about increasing NIH funding to the level at which they can fund some research?

    • Americans don't want to spend any money on developing vaccines. Remember, we all think vaccines are a big conspiracy by the Pharma companies and that they cause autism. Or we just don't believe in the government funding research, unless it's for the military.

  • I've been out fishing many times at night where they bump and hit my line. Dosent seem to matter if it's monofilament or stranded or the test weight. I've never had one get in my hair but have been suprised how easy it was to net them when some got in my house. I was able to release both and they seemed unharmed.
    • I've been out fishing many times at night where they bump and hit my line

      What if, instead of this being by accident, they actually "saw" the line as an insect? That would make their echolocation really accurate then.

  • I lived in a part of the world that was essentially reclaimed swampland and there were mangrove islands not too far away with swamps, sorry, I mean "pristine wetland environments". Every summer, the mozzie population would boom. Occasionally the council would fog the place with something that smelled like passionfruit. It wiped out all the mozzies for miles around. Wiped out everything else insectoid, too. Piles of dead recently-flying things could be seen under the streetlights.

    Bats can eat 100 mozzies per

  • They'll eat the larvae
  • A bat once got loose in the computer science lounge at my undergrad, and flew around in big circles for an hour as the staff and faculty hid in their offices. I ignored it and went about my day, so after a while one of the professors recruited me to help capture it. Because random undergrads and computer science professors are totally who you want in charge of capturing bats.

  • by Smiddi ( 1241326 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @08:27PM (#52485963)
    This happened here in Australia, now we have a huge bat (and bat guano) problem. The bats a bigger problem than the insects ever were.
    • This happened here in Australia, now we have a huge bat (and bat guano) problem. The bats a bigger problem than the insects ever were.

      "The placental mammals made their reappearance in Australia in the Pleistocene, as Australia continued to move closer to Indonesia, both bats and rodents appearing reliably in the fossil record." - wiki

      Damned Pleistocenians.

      But I pedantisize. I read about Bateman's Bay. What a mess.

      Truthfully, NY does need to take care as it can get out of control. But humans are getting better at that and I've read stories of farmers working with different species to control or solve various problems, etc. Still, as you sa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    80 years ago bats were common in New York. back then, if you (or your loved ones) were victims of crime, you could rely on a bat to inspire you to go out and fix things. But as bats declined, so did the quality of crime fighter. Today you can't turn on the TV without seeing crime and injustice everywhere. Hopefully as bats become more common more children can grow up seeing bats at their window in their formative years and the world will be a safer place.

    I realize there are alternative ways to control insec

  • "The Asian tiger mosquito particularly bites in forests during the day and has been known as the forest day mosquito for this very reason. Depending upon region and biotype, there are differing active peaks, but for the most part they rest during the morning and night hours."

    So guess how effective nocturnal feeding bats would be in controlling the Asian tiger mosquito?

  • from mosquito.org Do bats serve as an effective mosquito control? Recently the public has shown increased interest in the value of insectivorous species of bats in controlling mosquitoes. Although untested lately, this is not a new idea. During the 1920's several bat towers were constructed near San Antonio, Texas, in order to help control malarial mosquitoes. Mosquito populations were not affected and the project was discontinued. Bats in temperate areas of the world are almost exclusively insectivorous.
  • This type of talk is very similar to the geniuses that thought cane toads introduction to Australia would rid the country of cane beetles. But we all know what happened there.
    • Fallacy: false equivalence.

      AFAICT, no one is advocating introducing non-native species of bats anywhere. They're advocating measures to increase the native local bat populations, since humans have been effective in greatly reducing them through their actions.

      Yes, introducing non-native species is frequently problematic and historically has been disastrous in many places. The pro-bat people just want to undo the effect that humans have had on bats in their native habitats, in the hope that it'll reduce the

  • There was an old woman, who swallowed a fly.

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