Just about every morning, as I walk out my front door, I notice bits and pieces of Jerusalem crickets on our porch that have been disregarded like bones from buffalo chicken wings.
The culprit is a 5-inch-long, lightly colored pallid bat with huge ears and relatively large eyes.
Unlike other species of bats, these bats feed mostly on ground dwelling arthropods such as scorpions.
On the hunt, they usually fly a few of feet off the ground either using echolocation or just listening to locate their food. After they catch their prey, they usually carry it to their night roost to eat it.
During the summer months, they can eat up to half of their body weight in food each night. Judging by the number of half eaten bug parts on our home’s doorstep, I can certainly verify that statistic.
Even though bats have been demonized in horror movies, I love them.
On one warm evening while camping at Ponderosa Camp along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road near Big Sur, thousands of black flies forced my son and I into our tent.
As we looked at the sunset through the tent’s mesh screen roof, we saw 30 or 40 little brown bats appear out of nowhere and quickly dispatch our tormentors.
Bats are the only true flying mammals on the planet.
There are more than 1,000 bat species found throughout the world. In fact, bats make up a quarter of all mammal species on the planet!
Most of them eat insects, including flies, gnats, disease-carrying mosquitoes and some of the most damaging agricultural pests known to man.
A single little brown bat can consume an average of 1,000-3,000 insects in just one night; they can capture 600 mosquitoes in just an hour!
They help to fertilize crops with their guano, pollinate plants and some disperse seeds.
To say they’re beneficial to the environment would be an understatement.
Many scientists believe they are essential, like honeybees, to our survival.
Unfortunately, many species across the United States are endangered, threatened or vulnerable.
The decline in bat populations is probably because of multiple causes, including habitat loss and climate change. However, east of the Rocky Mountains, disease is the primary culprit. A fungus which causes white-nose syndrome has killed significant numbers of bats.
Along the Central Coast, organizations are helping to protect our precious bats.
One such group is the Boy Scouts of America. As part of his Eagle Scout project, 14-year-old Caden Marquis of Arroyo Grande chose to help reduce the population of flies and mosquitoes by building bat boxes.
Caden reached out to Diablo Canyon Land Stewardship program members, PG&E firefighter Dan Stocks and PG&E biologist and bat expert Kelly Kephart in the design and placement of bat boxes to aid in bat preservation.
Webelos Troop 235 started assembling the boxes while Boy Scouts from Troop 324 finished the assembly and painted them.
Diablo Canyon Facilities Maintenance folks Chris, Sokolowski, Dave Gilson and Nick Rademacher installed the boxes at the PG&E Energy Education Center in Avila Valley, the Fields Ranch House and the Krenn Ranch house on the Diablo Canyon Lands overlooking the Pacific.
According to Kephart, approximately half of all bat houses are occupied within the first summer and up to 80 percent are occupied within the first two and three years.
It is also helpful to attach more than one bat house to provide bats with different housing options. They are usually installed with a southern exposure, with one house painted a light color and the other one painted dark so the bats can find the most comfortable temperature depending on the time of year.
In San Luis Obispo County, these are the species of bats that will most likely occupy these boxes: big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) and Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis.