by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Backyard bats are the subject of an upcoming Morinville Community Gardens workshop taking place July 15. The local gardening enthusiasts are bringing in Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development bat expert Dr. Margo Pybus to do a session on bats and building bat houses. Cost of the workshop is $35, including supplies to build one. Registration deadline for the hands-on portion of the seminar is June 13; however, registrations will be accepted beyond the deadline for the speaking portion of the session.
Morinville Community Gardens Education Coordinator Paula Collins said Pybus would speak to attendees about bats and the benefit of bats to neighbourhoods. “The reason why we are putting on this bat house workshop is because it’s just a natural pest control,” Collins said of the flying mammal’s skillset. “We don’t like mosquitos. Nobody likes mosquitos in their backyards. Bats are a natural way to control mosquitos.”
Collins and her fellow community gardeners argue bats are an integral part of the ecosystem, nighttime flyers capable of consuming more than 600 mosquitos and other pests per hour. They believe building a bat house in the backyard encourages bats to make a home in the community, thereby controlling mosquito and other pest populations.
While their bat expert will provide general information on bats and their importance to the ecosystem, Collins said Pybus will also dispel some of the common myths associated with the insectivores, including the notion that bats make a straight beeline for people’s hair. “We’re hoping that she’ll kind of explain that bats are intelligent. They’re not going to fly for your hair,” Collins said. “We’re hoping that people come with an open mind and learn that bats are really important.”
Sunny spot for nocturnal feeders
The Community Gardens workshop will shed light on bat boxes, how to build them, and how to place them in a elevated sunny location. Collins said the houses should be placed high up on a pole or in a tree that does not have a lot of branches below the box. “It’s a little bit different than a bird house,” Collins explained, adding bats fly up into the box. The ideal height is three to five metres above ground.
The Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development website lists nine bat species present in Alberta. Collins said three of those are likely to take up residency in a backyard bat house. Two of those are the big brown and little brown bat, the species most commonly seen in the province.
The Community Gardens are hoping people will give consideration to using bats in their yards instead of bug spray and mosquito coils. “It’s kind of exciting,” she said. “Everybody is all about natural pest control and the [Community] Gardens is all about organic,” Collins said, adding the organization will likely be adding a box or two to their two locations in Morinville.
The event takes place July 15 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Morinville United Church Community Garden. Cost of the workshop is $35. Participants need to register by June 13 to have supplies included; however, they will need to bring their own hammer. Those interested in registering for the session can do so at https://ca.apm.activecommunities.com/morinville/Activity_Search.