Well, This Is Bat News: NH Population of the Bug-Eating Mammal Decimated

With black fly season here, it’s always a welcome sight to watch bats swooping across the night sky eating insects in the backyard. Right?

Did you know that bats eat hundreds of insects each night, including black flies and mosquitos? In fact, they can eat 50 percent of their own body weight each evening.

READ: Avoid Blood-Sucking Black Flies with These Tips

Pregnant females and those with pups eat even more insects. That’s the good news. The bad news is that surveys for bats in New Hampshire hibernacula, places where bats spend the winter, resulted in biologists finding only 26 bats.

In 2008, the same hibernacula had nearly 4,000 bats. Little brown bats, previously the most numerous bats in the Northeast, are sustaining the largest number of deaths and are at great risk. Counts of little brown bats dropped from 3,135 bats in 2008 to just one in 2018. The little brown bat has a body length of 2½-4 inches and weighs approximately one-eighth to ½ an ounce.

Northern long-eared bat populations have also been decimated by White Nose Syndrome, which was first documented in New Hampshire in 2009. According to the Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire is home to eight different bat species.

According to Dr. Jacques Veilleux, professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Franklin Pierce University, “finding only one little brown bat this winter does not mean they are gone from the state. Some bats fly to hibernacula in Vermont and New York, but spend summers in New Hampshire. We are seeing female bats raising their pups and returning the following summer."

"I do retain hope for the future return of our hibernating bats in New Hampshire, but should the recovery happen, it is likely to take many decades," he said.

Since bats generally have only one pup a year, it will take many decades for the population to rebound, if they ever do. And, in case you were wondering, there is no treatment yet for White Nose Syndrome.

According to information at www.whitenosesyndrome.org, “Scientists believe that white-nose syndrome is transmitted primarily from bat to bat. There is a strong possibility that it may also be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying the fungus from cave to cave on their clothing and gear."

One way you can help bats in the spring is to leave standing dead trees, called snags, on your property. Snag trees typically have flaking bark, or other features that provide daytime cover for bats.

Also, consider adding a bat house to your property. Bat houses create roosting habitat and can be purchased at your local farm and garden store, or are easily constructed using tutorials from Bat Conservation International.