New Bern, NC – As the sun goes down, small winged zig-zaggers zip across the dimly lit sky. As the summer winds down, bat sightings are becoming more common around eastern North Carolina for many different reasons. Park Ranger at Goose Creek State Park Nicole Crider.
"When you think about it, most of our insects come out during the warmer months. During the cooler months, they're dormant. That's the bats number one food so they're out and there is plenty of food available to them. They're nature's number one greatest pesticide. One small bats can eat over 100 to 150 mosquitoes in one hour."
Bats are especially beneficial for farmers. According to the US Geological Survey, insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year. Another reason why bats are active this time of year is because it's breeding season for many species. Bats may have one to three litters in a season, but females only produce one offspring at a time. Now that it's the end of summer, juvenile bats- or pups- are just now learning how to fly and setting out to find a new home.
"Most of our bats are going to be crevise dwelling species. So they're going to be roosting in trees."
But sometimes, they can find their way into out buildings, commercial structures and homes.
"Our roofs and our houses between the foundation and the outer layer of sideing whatever it could be provides a really nice habitat for bats so they find it its comfortable its closed in and dark and they're going to use it until they find a better place."
When bats come into our homes and businesses, it poses several problems. Residents at a barrack aboard Camp Lejeune are currently experiencing this first hand. On June 14th, the base's Wildlife Manager Martin Korenek was called to inspect the site.
" It is not usual for me to receive a call about a wildlife pest that is creating a problem for somebody in a building or a workspace. In this situation, I received a call about bats at a barracks so I went and took a look at that and sure enough, we discovered that there were bats that had created a roost site between the walls in one of our barracks."
A colony of big brown bats had taken up residence at the barracks. They were using weep holes to get inside the building. Koreneck says barracks residents reported seeing the bats flying in and out of the barrack each morning and night.
"So we went back at dusk. We got there early enough before they started flying and sure enough around 8:45 pm, we started to see bats leave those weep holes and leave the building. And in the course of about an hour and a half, we kinda estimated it at about 35 to 45 bats."
Large bat colonies, like the one at Camp Lejeune, cause several problems. People complain that large groups of bats can be heard scratching and crawling within walls. They also emit a high pitched squeak, which is used in echolocation.
"one thing that is pretty well known that bats are a real common source of human rabies infection. Bats get sick, bats get injured, if a bat is laying on the ground and someone handles a bat that was still alive and get bit, that's a problem."
Several fatal diseases have been linked to human contact with bats, including rabies. According to the CDC, almost half of rabies related cases in humans are caused by scratches or bites from bats.
Despite negative stereotypes in movies, bats do not pose a major threat to humans. According to Texas-based nonprofit Bat Conservation International, only 48 confirmed cases of rabies from bats have occurred in the United States in the past 55 years.
"Less than one half of one percent that are even thought to have rabies actually carry rabies. They kind of fly fast and there is lots of vampire storys associated with bats, but if you don't educate yourself on them, it can be a little scary."
The major concern for the barrack at Camp Lejuene is their excrement.
"It produces an odor as it decomposes and it's in between those walls and it's hard to get out. We want to make sure that barrack is a safe, comfortable living conditions over there. So that's our biggest concern. "
Koreneck says they will begin evicting the colony of bats very soon. The process includes placing a contraption over the weep hole that prevents the bats from getting back into the building.
"It's kind of a one way devise. It's essentially a small plastic hose or pipe so its long enough to where they have to crawl thru this and they can leave but then they can't actually land and go back thru that small pipe back into the building. "
If you have a bat problem, Koreneck warns you shouldn't attempt to remove them on your own. Don't shine that familiar bat signal light up into the dark night either .. just call your local wildlife officer.
If you want to learn more about bats, the Goose Creek State Park is having program called "All About Bats" it takes place August 25th at 6 pm. If you'd like more information, go to publicradioeast.org