Here is Paradise, we share the world with a rich diversity of wildlife. Because Man is Man, we don’t really like to share our space. Mice aren’t welcome; cockroaches equally so. Loose dogs and cats also fall into this category, but not as much. The bats we see zooming around at dawn and dusk don’t really seem to be a problem… until they are. At Estrella del Mar, we have several basic types of bats: the Mexican free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasiliensis, the Jamaican fruit bat, Artibeus jamaicensis, and a newcomer that has not yet been identified, perhaps Artibeus toltecus.
Mexican free-tails are the most common mammal in North America. They stream by the millions out of bat caves in Texas and are featured in many popular films and documentaries. They are the “good” guys; they exclusively eat insects, up to three-quarters of their body weight every night. Here at Estrella, they like to roost together in the underground areas of the parking garage. Just look for the accumulated guano on the floor in the dark corners, or better yet, just follow your nose.
The larger chiropterids, the Jamaican and Toltec bats, are another story. They love figs and fleshy fruit of all stripes including the fruit from thorny hedge-bushes, palm trees, cola de pescado trees and almendra trees. The landscaping people in Phase II have taken down all their cola de pescado trees, but the single large almendra tree remains. Phase I is working on gathering a consensus to trim our fruit trees. Our golf course has several large fig trees, the nearest being the one between the Hole #6 championship tee box and the Hole #3 green. If you have ever eaten a fig, you will know their seeds are tiny and numerous, all nestled together within a rich and tasty fruit filling. Jamaican bats will pluck a ripe fruit from the tree and can fly with it quite a distance before they settle down and feast. You can always tell where where the banquet takes place because after they are done, their flight path is often marked with sticky caterpillar-sized tubes of seed-rich, sticky poop and a dash of brown urine. These materials decorate the walls of our complex, and that word is used facetiously. Cleaning the walls is difficult, time-consuming and dangerous. Bats do famously harbor viruses but also nematodes, ringworm, mites and chiggers, so clean up with gloves on.
Normally, bats avoid people, activity and light. In the past, leaving the porch light on was enough to discourage bats from eating their moveable feast in a certain spot. But lately and for reasons unknown, all the light and activity in the world has failed to dissuade the newly arrived bats from feasting and pooping in their favorite areas. If you see evidence of bat occupation on your patio, don’t worry. Help is here.
Manipulate the image above. This cheap, lightweight apparatus works. In an effort to discourage all of our local fruit bats to move elsewhere to enjoy their dinners, the staff at Las Lagunitas has purchased a dozen and a half of the above pictured pigeon protectors. One screw and they are in place, protecting your patio furniture. If we can locate each nook and cranny where they like to feast and make it inaccessible, that will go a long way to reduce the fecal decorations on our walls and our potential exposure to pathogens.
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