Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going Batty

Last week, my husband and I were discussing the yard and gardens – where to move this plant or that plant, when to cut back the pesky vines that keep creeping over a neighbor’s fence into our rock garden, what we may still have time to plant this year, and other garden chores that needed to be completed.  We talked about expanding from tomato plants to a real veggie garden.  We talked about our long-planned backyard overhaul that still has not begun due to his work schedule and time constraints for both of us as well as those that have offered to help with the project.  Towards the end of this conversation, my husband announced that he had a few things he wanted to get for the yard.  I asked him to elaborate and he replied, “Well, a squirrel feeder, a butterfly house, and…a bat house.”  The first two items flowed out of his mouth easily and happily and I was quick to agree, but the last item sort of climbed its way out, knowing that my reaction to it would be less than favorable.  My first thoughts were as follows:  A bat house?  Really?  Why?  What would the neighbors have to say about it?  I had already heard some comments about the increased numbers of birds and critters that visit our feeders in our yard and the rock garden that sits at the very back of our property but what would they say or do about a bat house?  I had sudden visions of petitions being signed.  I based my objections to the bat house on the neighbors and not the fact that I find bats incredibly creepy.  My husband dug his heels in on the matter though.  His reasoning for the bat house was that a bat can ingest up to 1000 mosquitoes in one night.  Uh-oh!  He had done his homework!  He was ready for whatever objection I threw out there.  I didn’t have a chance.  I asked him to let me sit with the idea for a while, saying in true Yoda fashion, “Meditate on this, I will.”

Later in the week, I sat in the yard and, even though I had the citronella candles going, I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes, huge lumps appearing on my legs and arms and wherever else they got me, and I started thinking about the bat house idea.  Like I said before, I find bats creepy.  Why?  Maybe it’s because I’ve heard stories about bats getting caught in people’s hair or stories about them getting into people’s homes.  The true reason, though, is because the subject of bats is not something in which I am well-versed.  So, off to the computer I went to research the subject of bats.  I won’t go into all the scientific jargon here but I did find out some things which really eased my fear of these little creepy flying critters.  Bat populations are declining due to disappearing habitat.  They are essential in maintaining a health ecosystem because they act as natural pest control in garden and farm settings and keep insect populations down where needed.  Yes, they can eat 1000 flying insects per night.  This includes mosquitoes, moths and some beetles.  In a University of Florida News article from October 2001, it was noted that “a few dozen bats can make a difference in a neighborhood” for this reason.  Without bats, we would be overrun by insects.  Right there I was sold.  No more bites with associated crazed itching.  No more threat of West Nile Virus.  No more spraying myself down with insect repellent, which I only do in extreme cases because I hate the stuff.  I also thought about the neighbors and how they would be saved from the blood-thirsty monsters.  How could they object?  It looked like a bat house was in my very near future.

But in doing this research, I found some more information about bats that struck me on a more spiritual level.  Bats symbolize illusion, rebirth, intuition, and journeying among many other things.  They symbolize rebirth because they live in the belly of Mother Earth (caves) and emerge every evening from Her belly.  Because they are nocturnal, they have long been associated with vampires, who also rise only at night.  Hence, Dracula turning into a bat.  Native Americans believed bats were very powerful and would invoke the spirit of bats when they needed the ability to see through darkness to the truth or heart of a matter.  For this reason, they are also symbolic of psychic abilities, intuition and dreams.  They are cloaked in mystery because of their very nature and, therefore, have long been misunderstood as well as greatly revered.  Needless to say, bats aren’t so creepy to me anymore.  I know consider them a necessity and just another connection to nature.

I figured that my husband had already discovered all the scientific ins and outs of bats during his own research so I shared only the symbolism portion of my research, which I think impressed him because this meant I was considering the bat house idea.  We set about our weekend and, once again, another night of mosquitoes biting ensued.  I then started calling the “Bat House Idea” the “Bat House Solution”.  So, last night, we moved on to actually looking at and pricing bat houses.  While we sat at the computer together, the hubby also showed me the butterfly houses he was considering.  A no-brainer.  Who doesn’t love butterflies?  There were also ladybug houses, which were adorable and offer another sort of natural pest control for my plants and flowers.  Then we came across bee houses!  “Do you think we could keep bees?”, I asked him (but that is a subject for another day).  Next, we’ll be delving into the world of how to get the bats to take up residence in the bat house as well as local township ordinances, if any, regarding keeping a bat house.

Through this process, I think we have realized something about our little backyard and the gardens we have created.  We are working towards something self-sustaining and self-preserving.  We are creating a system of natural checks and balances for ourselves and the creatures and plants around us.  We are making a better place for ourselves in this small part of our world and perhaps it will have a larger impact on the world around us, on our future and the future of all of those around us, whether it is human, flora or fauna.

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