The overall goal of Liz’s project is to understand the ecological (and potential economic) role of bats in a Texas pecan agroecosystem. We lived and worked in an organic pecan orchard owned by John and Jimma Byrd. Several years ago John installed three bat houses on his property in an attempt to attract more bats to his orchard, and I installed nine more during my thesis work. Liz’s work has shown that some of these bats do eat the pecan nut casebearer (Acrobasis nuxvorella) moth, one of the most devastating nut-feeding insects that occur in pecans. The bats act as natural pest control agents and therefore reduce the need for expensive and often unnecessary pesticides. Scientists have estimated that bats save farmers between $3.7 billion and $53 billion per year on pesticides that did not have to be used on crops like corn, cotton, vegetables, and fruit because of the help bats give. So in addition to being very ecologically important (they keep insects like pesky mosquitoes in check) they are also economically important. One more reason to have bats around!
For ways to help support bats and bat conservation, see my previous blog post at:
The Texas Farm Bureau crew filming Liz and me setting up a triple-high mist net (triple-high mist nets are three regular 10 foot high nets strung one on top of the other so the total height is 30 feet).
Liz and I checking one of the Anabats. An Anabat is an acoustic detector that records bats’ echolocation calls. You can then look at the calls with the Anabat software and determine what species made the call (although there’s a lot of debate about how accurate call identification is). Or you can just look at the number of calls per night to get an index of bat activity in an area, regardless of species. Liz was comparing bat activity between conventional orchards, organic orchards, and natural sites (with natural Texas vegetation).
Two of my bat houses in John’s orchard (the ones that were in the video). The one on the left is a standard bat house, while the one on the right is a “rocket box,” built around a single pole. The bats seem to prefer the rocket box. Here I’m collecting guano from my fancy guano collection tarps and bins. The more guano under the houses, the more bats are present.
Looking up into one of the rocket boxes. Yes, those are bats! Evening Bats (Nycticeius humeralis) to be specific. They moved into the houses only days after I put them up, and they even used a few of them as maternity colonies. I cannot even express my elation at the houses’ success!
A close-up of the bats in the house.