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Feeling buggy? Bats could be the answer

Colorado wildlife experts say the best way to get rid of those insects is not pesticides – it's bats. But those bats face an uphill battle.

DENVER — Dracula might have given bats a not-so-good-reputation as creatures that swoop through the night in search of unsuspecting humans to suck their blood. Tina Jackson wants to dispel those myths.

"There's a lot of myths out there about bats," said Jackson, who works with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "But they're certainly good for us here in Colorado."

She said that this year especially, with all the spring rain and resulting insects, we need those bug-eating bats.

"Right now, we are seeing the miller moth move through, and bats will certainly help us with that problem," she said. "During the summer, they help us with our mosquitoes, and for our agricultural community, they help with a lot of agricultural pests."

But rain makes it tougher for bats to find their food: "They come out at dusk and they feed during the night ... so when we have these rainstorms in the evening, it can be hard for them to get out and feed," Jackson said. 

One of the biggest problems bats face is the loss of their habitat, the result of accelerated climate change. In Colorado, that could, down the road, mean less water for them to drink.

"The first thing we think about here in Colorado ... we think about it a lot ... is drought," Jackson said.

Credit: KUSA
Tina Jackson

But there are things people can do to help bats, like helping to ensure they have water to drink. Bird baths are too small, but a pond in the yard is just the right size.

The best thing to do is to stop using chemicals, Jackson said.

"Avoid using pesticides to get rid of the insects because the bats, then if they pick those insects up, are ingesting that pesticide," she said.

In addition to eating pests, bats are also an important food source for owls and hawks. If the bat population declines, so could other species that depend on them for food.

So, perhaps, every once in awhile, sit outside at dusk and just watch the bats at work. They are tiny, remarkable creatures that as our climate changes, will find themselves battling much more than just a bad rap.  

"Just learning about them is really the big first step," Jackson said.

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