What we love most about our backyard habitat are the surprise visits from our local wildlife. We never know what we will find from one day to the next. I will never forget the day about five years ago, when my husband was out doing his weekly yard clean-up. He was blowing off the patio and turned the nozzle up to blow out the debris from the corner where the sunroom meets the house. All of the sudden, I heard a man-sized “Whoa!” I ran to the door to see him standing in awe, mouth agape with the still-running blower on his back. “Did you see that?” he asks. “No,” I reply, “What happened?” “Something just flew out from behind that clock,” he explains, still in shock. We both looked behind the clock, but nothing was there. Once he collected himself, he returned to his duties.
The clock is located right beside the sliding glass door leading from the sunroom. It is the main egress from the house to the backyard & we use it constantly.
Days later, as I was going into the sunroom, I glanced down & saw something lightly littering the corner of the patio under the clock. Chipmunks often dig in my pots and leave a tell-tale dusting of dirt on the concrete. Upon closer inspection, I recognized these black crumbs as guano. I quickly put two & two together and looked through the narrow space between the siding and the clock. Sure enough, there in the shadows was the silhouette of a Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) hanging upside down by its hind claws on the wood siding. It was positioned near the battery pack of the clock in front. I suspect that it may be attracted to the heat from the battery.
What a wonderful find! Ironically, we had wanted to attract bats to our backyard habitat in efforts to help control our mosquito population. We even went so far as to purchase and hang a bat house at the back of our property. No signs of activity there, despite all the pomp and circumstance. But here, right beside our busy doorway, is a beautiful little bug-eating friend. Even after being literally blown out of its roost by an equally unsuspecting home-owner. Amazing!
I quickly put my garden pot right under that clock so the guano would land in it to naturally fertilize the plants.
Over the years, we have all purposefully monitored that negative space between the house and the clock. Every family member has taken their turn during the warm weather season happily announcing “The bat is back!” or “No bat today, must have stayed over at a friends.”
At dusk, we sit in the sunroom, waiting and watching until that moment when a swift moving shadow drops down and out of its perch on its way to an evening full of pest-catching fun. And for that, we are thankful.
We welcome this little visitor and are grateful for his service, not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of our neighbors and nearby friends.
This year, the bat left our roost around the end of September. Most likely, it has moved to a cave or mine to stay warm with friends through the winter. Next year when the weather begins to warm, we will once again begin our bat/clock monitoring and welcome him or her back after a long, cold winter.
Little Brown Bat Facts:
- Latin name: Myotis lucifugus
- Weight: 1/8 – 3/8 oz.
- Length: 3 1/8″- 3 7/8″
- Wingspan: 9″ – 11″
- Females are generally larger than males
- Nocturnal – Nature’s own pesticide; can consume 1/2 its body weight in insects such as gnats, crane flies (look like giant mosquitos, but aren’t), beetles, wasps & moths in one night
- Most of their feeding happens on the wing & within two hours after dusk
- Uses echolocation to find food. Can collect insects with its wings or directly by mouth.
- Often feeds on insects that are attracted to animals, which some humans misinterpret as going after the animal and not the insects.
- Live appox. 6-7 years and can often live well beyond 10 years.
- Females use delayed fertilization in order to give birth in June/July when food supply is at its highest.
- Babies are carried on the mother’s abdomen for the first two weeks of life
- Babies are full size and self sufficient by 4 weeks of age
- Get a bad rap for carrying rabies. They actually carry a low level of rabies. Raccoons are more likely to carry rabies.
- Predators are: small carnivores, birds, rats, snakes, windmills and barbed wire
- Are currently dying en mass in the U.S. due to White-Nose Syndrome which was brought to the U.S. by hikers who had been in Europe and then wore the same unwashed gear into a cave in New York. Let’s all learn from this and wash our gear/clothes after every outing.