Toward the end of the summer of 2022, I looked up in the sky and saw Jerry. I looked around and around and never saw Tom. Tom and Jerry, as I affectionately named them, were two small bats that had played in the skies over Mack Road the previous three summers. They would frolic and chase each other as they ate the mosquitoes and flies that inhabited the night sky. It warmed my heart to see them being batty!
Bats are very good to have around. They eat many kinds of garden pests, like dung beetles, flies, moths. And, of course, they eat mosquitoes. A bat like Tom can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects an hour. A nursing mother bat can eat up to 4,500 a night.
You want your mosquitoes to go away? Get a bat!
Despite not being aggressive and preferring to avoid us humans, bats have gotten a bad reputation (mainly from horror movies). And they’re disappearing. I suspect that Tom, like many other bats, was affected by “white nose syndrome,” a devastating fungal condition that has killed over 6 million bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada since 2006. The thinking is this fungus was likely introduced and passed around by hikers exploring bat caves.
Since their habitats have also been disappearing, and since bats are so naturally good at managing pests (including those mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis – aka, Triple E disease), dispersing seeds and aiding in pollination, Middlefield Lion Peter Berry, a science teacher at Coginchaug HS, thought it would be really smart to create bat habitats.
So, last summer, Peter and fellow Lion Marc D’Amato, with help from Scouts from Troop 33 and local resident Steve Dubey, built and mounted four wooden bat houses in the community (Really, bat apartments, as they’re multi-chamber dwellings which can accommodate upwards of 100 bats each). Lion Peter Cabelus donated much of the supplies for the bat houses, which are painted, fully sealed and have copper roofs to keep the weather out.
The project was a labor of love.
The bat houses can be found at Peckham Park, where there are two, as well as at Lucy Strickland Skating Pond and the Community Giving Garden behind the Middlefield Community Center. Please look for them.
Keep your fingers crossed that we see many more Tom and Jerry’s this summer. That would be good for everyone!
Summer Lerch is a member of the Middlefield Lions Club.