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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Bats Demystified

Posted by Kelly Allsup - Bugs

Bats Demystified

The mere mention of the word, bats, causes most people to cringe or flee covering up their heads. Their reaction a side effect of the fear instilled in us through movies, books and countless stories portraying the bat as the nemesis hungry for blood. The bat does make a great bad guy because he is comes out at night to feed, can live in great numbers and perhaps drink your blood. In reality, out of over 1,200 species of bats worldwide, there are 3 species of vampire bats that live in Central America who lap not suck blood. The thought of lapping blood does seem a little less menacing and rabies are not as prevalent in bats as people must think but less that ½ a percent.

The bats of Illinois haves a greater calling in our fields and backyards: eating insects. Illinois has 13 species of bats that are serious predators of night flying insects. One bat can eat up to 3000 insects per night and drastically reduce the population of insect pests like corn root earworm beetle (aka cucumber beetle), chironomids, cutworm moths and mosquitoes. A gardener with these insect infestations might even welcome the bats.

Big brown bats, little brown bats, Eastern Red bats and are the most common species throughout Illinois. The largest species weighs a little over three pounds, and the smallest species weighs less than 1/10 of an ounce. In Illinois, bats are all very small, ranging from tricolor bat (about 1/5 of an ounce) to the hoary bat (one ounce). They can live in colonies or solitary either hibernate or migrate south for the winter. They are in fact the only flying mammal in the world.

At the recent State Master Gardener conference attendees were allowed a rare up close view of 5 little brown bats snuggled together in a small bag the size of an IPAD. They were used by their caretaker as ambassadors to promote public awareness of their important role in our ecosystem. Vera Blevins of Bat World Heartland in Bettendorf, IA is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who does rescue and educational work. She stated that she currently took care of 20 injured or handicapped bats.

If you are like me, you wouldn't mind sharing the backyard with these Illinois natives maybe even perhaps building them a home. Rules to establishing a bat habitat

-Houses are most successful when they are place in a sunny location away from trees, are at least two feet tall and contain multiple chamber that are ¾ inch deep with roosting chambers and vents for cooling and a roof placed. Find criteria for building a bat house at

-Houses must have a landing platform

- Houses that are located less than ¼ mile from bodies of water and forest are most likely to be inhabited. If a bat house doesn't gain occupancy within 2 years consider relocating

-Bat houses are meant to be shelter during the summer months and not places to overwinter

-Must have a body of water less than ¼ mile away

-Placed at least 15 foot off the ground and separate from homes or trees

- Requires at least 6 hours of sun

To find more information on Bats and Wildlife in Illinois please go to or current research at the University of Illinois at and

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