Delaware is home to eight species of bats, several of which have begun their annual move from winter hibernation sites to their summer maternity colonies. The female bats return to their colonies pregnant and congregate to give birth and raise their pups. In Delaware, these colonies can often take up residence in barns, garages, attics and homes.
Bats feed at night on insects, including many pest species such as mosquitoes. Some eat moths and beetles that damage crops. A study published in Science magazine’s Policy Forum suggests that bats could be one of the most economically valuable groups of wildlife to North American farmers, saving farmers at least $3.7 billion annually by reducing the amount of pesticides needed.
“They’re providing us with a valuable and free service, so it’s to our great benefit to have them around,” said wildlife biologist Holly Niederriter of the state's Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Even though bats play an important role in the ecosystem, they are often unwanted visitors to residents’ homes and outbuildings. If someone has had bats roosting in an undesirable location, a bat exclusion from the building may be warranted.
In the spring, it is crucial that bat exclusions be completed before May 15, when the mother bats start giving birth, in order to prevent trapping flightless young inside the building and permanently separating the mothers from their pups -which cannot survive on their own.
Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists are seeking volunteer bat spotters to help in locating and counting the state’s bat colonies. The Delaware Bat Count is a statewide study of bat populations, breeding activity and the overall health of the bats that inhabit the state. The bat program is always looking for reports of new bat colonies and volunteers interested in being a part of this important research program. Once volunteers adopt a site of their own, they are asked to count the bats at least twice during the summer.
To report a bat colony, or for more information about becoming a bat spotter, or on proper bat exclusions, contact Christine Tilton at 302-735-8669, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Holly Niederriter, 302-735-8670, email@example.com.
Find out more about the Delaware Bat program on Facebook, or at www.fw.delaware.gov/bats.