March 2005, Volume 3, Issue 3

The Gardener’s Friend

A Mexican free-tailed bat with a moth it’s about to eat. Photo © Merlin D. Tuttle, BCI

Bats got high praise from The American Gardener magazine for their prodigious efforts at controlling insects. “Gardeners in particular should appreciate bats for helping to reduce insect pest populations, including those pesky mosquitoes that take some of the fun out of being outdoors,” said the American Horticultural Society publication.

Writer Jo Ann Abell notes that “few animals have been so burdened with myth and superstition as bats.” But, she wrote, thanks to the efforts of conservation groups and wildlife officials, bats now “are being seen in a different light for the valuable role they play in the ecosystem.”

The article quoted Bat Conservation International Science Officer Barbara French and displayed photos by BCI Founder Merlin Tuttle.

North America is home to 46 bat species and all but three species in the American Southwest are insect-eaters, The American Gardener said. The three exceptions feed on nectar and pollen and are essential pollinators of many desert plants on which bees, moths, lizards and many birds depend. “Without the bats,” the magazine said, “there would be serious disruptions to the ecosystem.”

The article also noted that the Mexican free-tailed bat is “truly the farmer’s best friend – one of its favorite foods is the number-one-ranked agricultural pest in America, the corn earworm moth.” The most common native North American bat, the big brown bat, feeds on June bugs, stinkbugs, mosquitoes, leafhoppers and other unsavory prey, while one little brown bat can eat 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour.

All things considered, the magazine said, “welcoming bats to the garden will pay dividends. In a healthy ecosystem, for every insect pest we find, there is a natural predator. One of these is the silent hunter of the night, the underappreciated bat.”

All articles in this issue:

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