Coincidentally Ohio Bat Week and International Bat Week are celebrated from October 24 through October 31 – just in time for Halloween! What is Bat Week? Bat Week celebrates the immense contributions that bats provide in nature and heightens awareness for bat conservation through education.
There are 13 species of bats reportedly found across Ohio, including the little brown and big brown bats. These mammals are essential for controlling insect pests, pollinating flowers, and spreading seed across wide areas. On any given summer night, you can see them flying about consuming their weight in mosquitoes, flies, beetles, and other insects. In fact, insects are the only thing that bats in Ohio eat. If bugs are out and about, bats are out and about too.
If you have ever sampled a margarita – you have bats to thank for pollinating and dispersing agave seed. Blue agave plants are the only plants used to make tequila!
History suggests that bats became associated with Halloween due to their dark coloration, nocturnal habits, and tendency to roost in caves and dark places. They can also be seen in large swarms this time of year looking for places to hibernate for the winter. Some bat species will fly south while others find more local retreats with moderate temperatures including caves and mines.
Fear not! Bats are not the scary, blood-sucking creatures depicted in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” or countless other vampire-themed tales and movies. Rather, they are harmless, beneficial mammals that intentionally avoid human contact. Bats coexist around us generally without ever being detected. In some rare cases, you might cross paths with a bat.
Bats can enter homes and buildings through small openings or through open windows, doors, or cracks. The best way to prevent encounters with bats is to seal entry points and install one-way exclusion openings that allow bats to leave but not return. The extension office has a nice bulletin on excluding bats from buildings, so please call for a copy.
If you find a bat in your home or other living space, it is best to isolate it to a single room, turn off all lights, and leave a window or door to the outside open, The bat will leave on its own. I had a bat in the garage over the weekend, turned off the garage light and let the door open – and the bat was gone before morning.
Once excluded – it is a good idea to provide bats with a more suitable living space. Bat houses can be easily constructed or purchased. Place bat houses around your property to encourage bat-friendly habitats.
Bats can carry the rabies virus, though fewer than 4% of bats in Ohio have rabies. For this reason, it is advised to not touch or handle bats with bare hands as a precaution. If you are bitten by a bat it is wise to seek medical care immediately.
To learn more about bats in Ohio as well as other mammals, please visit The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Mammals of Ohio guide.
Bats are threatened by the loss of natural habitats due to development of land and deforestation, wind turbines, and pesticide use. For more information on bat conservation, please visit Bat Conservation International (batcon.org), Batweek.org, or the Extension office at 1206 East Second St. in Ottawa. You may also contact us by phone at 419-523-6294, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.
Image of a little brown bat by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay.