Bat houses surge in popularity in hopes of preventing Zika

Bat houses used to fight mosquitoes (KXAN Photo/Lauren Lanmon)
Bat houses used to fight mosquitoes (KXAN Photo/Lauren Lanmon)

GARDEN RIDGE, Texas (KXAN) — If you’re enjoying the outdoors this summer, you may notice more bat houses hanging from poles or on the sides of buildings. That’s because more and more people are buying up bat houses to combat mosquitoes and hoping it will help prevent the Zika virus.

“Kids grow up wanting to be a fireman or a policeman; I was not ever dreaming of being a bat house entrepreneur,” said owner of Lone Star Woodcrafts Reggie Regan. He started his business in 1997, and like any good invention it started with a problem.

“I was looking to control the insects, mainly the mosquito population in our backyard without having to spray toxic chemicals,” said Regan. That’s when he began building bat houses.

Regan built his first bat house in his own backyard, but once word got out about the benefits of having bats nearby, he began making sales worldwide. Since the Zika virus began spreading, Regan says his sales have increased exponentially.

“I’ve sold 30 to 35 percent more than I did this time last year. The last couple of months we have just been picking up so fast that it’s been hard to keep up with inventory. We saw a similar thing with the West Nile virus several years ago,” said Regan.

That’s because bats are known to eat mosquitoes, in fact it’s estimated that bats can eat around a thousand mosquitoes in one hour. Regan says that includes the Mexican Free Tailed bats in Central Texas.

“They are looking for the bigger juicer insects, but they aren’t going to pass up a free meal. So, if they are flying through a flock of mosquitoes, that’s what they are going to eat,” said Regan.

Regan says although welcoming bats into your backyard won’t eliminate the mosquito population, it may certainly reduce it.

“It’s not going to get rid of your risk. You have to take all other precautions, you know wear proper clothing and bug spray and the time of day you go outside, but having the bat house will certainly reduce the mosquitoes in your backyard and in your neighborhood and reduce your risk to these viruses,” said Regan.

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