Believe it or not – it’s Bat Week!

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 scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu, or find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.

Tick Tock…It’s Time for Tick Season!

I was genuinely surprised and slightly alarmed to see that the spider my daughter found in our house on Monday morning was not a spider at all, but rather a tick. It was in fact a female American dog tick. We most likely picked up this gal while walking through tall grass and weeds along a field edge last evening. Luckily, she must have only attached to my clothing and fallen off after coming indoors.

Why should we be concerned about ticks in Ohio? The American dog tick, the blacklegged tick, and the Lone star tick are commonly found in Ohio – and each can carry harmful bacteria that cause disease. Humans and animals can become ill if bitten by an infected tick. Infected ticks can transmit tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, among others.

The American dog tick is the most commonly found tick in Ohio from mid-April through July. American dog ticks like grassy areas along roads and paths, especially near woods and shrubby areas. The adult tick positions itself on grasses and weeds waiting to latch onto the fur or clothing of humans, dogs, groundhogs, raccoons, or other large mammals passing by. The tick will attach to its host and feed. In humans, this is often on the scalp or along the hairline. When attached for at least a day, the adult American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In Ohio, however, it is estimated that less than 2% of American dog ticks carry the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and few people are infected each year.

Follow these practical tips to help keep you, your loved ones and your pets tick-free this summer. First, avoid tick-infested wooded and grassy areas when possible. If you will be outdoors in areas where ticks are likely to occur, make sure to:

  • Dress appropriately by wearing light-colored clothing including tall socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Make sure to tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants. Light-colored clothing allows you to readily see insects crawling on your clothing.
  • Treat clothing, boots, and camping gear with permethrin according to manufacturer instructions. Products containing permethrin should not be applied directly to your skin.
  • Use insect repellent products that contain at least 25% DEET on exposed skin. Repellants wear off over time and will need to be reapplied according to the product instructions. Adults should apply repellants to children.
  • Use anti-tick products on dogs, keep dogs close to home and prevent them from freely roaming in grassy and wooded areas.
  • Frequently check your body and pets for ticks and immediately remove them when found. To remove an attached tick, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and firmly pull upward. Place the tick in a plastic bag or other container for correct identification. Thoroughly wash the bite site with soap and water.

If you have been bitten by a tick, it is important to correctly identify the type of tick and monitor the location of the bite over the next several weeks. If the bite area becomes swollen or develops a rash, consult your physician immediately.

There are numerous online resources for for tick identification and information, including www.tickencounter.org. The American dog, blacklegged, and Lone star ticks have a hard plate on their back that enable identification between the different types, as well as between males and females. You can bring the tick to the Putnam County Extension office for identification or to the local health department. OSU Extension also has handy, pocket-sized tick id cards that individuals can take and use to identify ticks when outdoors or at home. To obtain a tick id card, or for more information, contact the Putnam County Extenstion office at 419-523-6294, by email at scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu, or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can now find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.